Review: Camerata Pacifica at Hahn Hall

English Horn Player Martin Owen Makes S.B. Debut on April 11

This superb concert did all those things we have learned to love about the locally based chamber-music phenom, Camerata Pacifica: It consummated internationally sourced musicianship, smart programming, and daring experimentation, and culled renewed inspiration from neglected canonical corners. Strings took the month off as Artistic Director Adrian Spence pulled together wind works that ranged from a Mozart piano quintet to the revisitation of a 2012 Camerata premiere by Jake Heggie. In classical orchestration, winds often take a backseat, quite literally; here was an unmatched opportunity to bring them forward.

Heggie’s sweetly sad elegy, Soliloquy, opened the show, with Spence on flute and Warren Jones playing piano. Flute remained center stage for Scottish composer (and onetime UCSB music professor) Thea Musgrave’s Narcissus (1987). This 16-minute meditative journey entails solo flute interacting with its own live reflection, Narcissus-like, via electronic digital delay. Plaintive calls and phrases were skillfully captured (via foot controls) and echoed back in oscillating fairy pedal tones. Works by 20th-century English composers Herbert Howells and Madeleine Dring were the surprising heart of the evening — rich in color and exquisite in craft. The finale, Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat Major for Piano and Winds, brought together Nicholas Daniel on oboe, clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester, John Steinmetz on bassoon, Jones, and introduced English horn player Martin Owen in his Camerata debut. Jones’s playful channeling of Mozart, combined with the control and unity of these international artists, brought the composer’s timeless insight to life and delighted the audience.

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