Camerata Pacifica’s eerie concert at Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall recently served the purpose of reflecting ineffable political turmoil, beginning with John Harbison’s two-movement Abu Ghraib for cello and piano. Instrumentally violent and erratic, the piece juxtaposes a traditional Iraqi lullaby against somber cries of the cello, at the capable hands of Ani Aznavoorian, who exercised impeccable control over the sporadic refrains. Molly Morkoski managed to translate the intense piano component into something beautiful, even as she hit the piano’s music rack to create a unique yet chilling sound.
The concert followed with Michael Daugherty’s “Sing Sing” and “Paul Robeson Told Me,” both orchestrations for string quartet and digital tape. “Sing Sing” includes audio recordings from J. Edgar Hoover as well as a telephone’s near constant ringing while the quartet follows the evening’s theme of austerity, filled with shrill violin ornamentations, also present in “Paul Robeson Told Me” equally as spine-tingling. Following the Daugherty selections was John Cage’s experimental “4’33,”” which truly honors the title, the quartet sitting pensively as the concert hall sat in contemplation.
The final selection, Beethoven’s “String Quartet No. 8 in E minor” departed from the evening’s political overtones and showcased its compositional intricacies. Appropriately intense, the piece balanced the program’s more political aspects, and solidified the evening’s theme — it is important to discuss unrest in our society, and in the face of unspeakable political tragedy, music can pack a greater punch than words.