Most tunes follow precise harmonic-rhythmic sequences: a Beatles song based on the 12-bar blues; a Bach minuet cycling through 16 measures. But dive into French modern music, like Claude Debussy’s La mer, and you are thrown out of this tidy ideal clockwork and into the ebb and flow of the great sea itself, with its capricious tidal tugs and suddenly swirling eddies. Nature, wrote Debussy, is “that book which, alas, musicians read but too little.” Music is not a neatly collected theory but “the sum total of scattered forces.”
Debussy was front and center in this November program, as were his associates André Caplet and Maurice Ravel, and successor André Jolivet. But more, every piece featured harp phenom Bridget Kibbey, a new face to Camerata Pacifica audiences. Recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and guest artist with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Kibbey excels at this path-breaking repertoire — not surprising for an innovator who is known for pushing the scope of her instrument.
An ensemble of six opened with Debussy’s Danse sacrée et danse profane followed by Caplet’s Conte fantastique. The latter work is inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death,” and evoked a Gothic-symbolist atmosphere with its ominous drones, knocking sounds, and tolling clock. Jolivet’s Chant de Linos followed next with ecstatic flute lines played by Adrian Spence. But the most moving performance of the evening was the second Debussy piece, Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp. The smallest ensemble that night — an intimate trio of Kibbey, Spence, and violist Richard Yongjae O’Neill — seemed to lock into a powerful synergy, the rhythmic and tonal changes flushing through them like a spontaneous breeze. Finally, Introduction et allegro for septet by Ravel completed the program. This demanding and excellent debut by Bridget Kibbey cements her place in CamPac and whets our appetite for future excursions into the harp repertoire.