Camerata Pacifica’s March concert.

At Victoria Hall Theater, Friday, March 17.

Bassoonist John Steinmetz got Camerata Pacifica’s March concert
off to an even more than usually jocose start on Friday by
introducing the evening’s opening number with a string of deadpan
puns and one-liners that had everyone laughing. Composer Joseph
Rheinberger was helpfully located within the context of the
tradition of composers with “burger” in their names, and his
composition, the Nonet in E-flat Major, Opus 139, was deemed a
dangerous piece, “to be played without safety precautions.” (As in
“no net.”) Steinmetz finished with an entirely sincere and
on-target characterization of the piece as designed to entertain,
and capable of communicating a sense of deep delight.

The performance that followed was breathtaking, one of the most
moving musical highlights in a year of many for the organization.
The interplay among the various instruments was distinguished by
its sensitivity and originality. An oddball early pizzicato passage
full of unpredictable starts and stops gave way to darker
sonorities as the music deepened and developed. Rheinberger may
hail from tiny Liechtenstein, but he is a very sophisticated
composer for this size ensemble, and fully capable of generating
the expressiveness and intensity one associates with a full
orchestra. The players were more than amply prepared for its
rigors, and breathed the kind of life into the piece that only
hours of thoughtful rehearsal can produce.

After intermission Sarah Thornblade, violin; Emil Miland, cello;
and Vicki Ray, piano, took on Toru Takemitsu’s gorgeous, shimmering
Between Tides, a contemplative trio that shows Takemitsu’s genius
for evoking the delicate nature of the aquatic at its creative
height. The evening’s final piece was one familiar to Camerata
Pacifica audiences, Jake Heggie’s impressive song cycle Winter
Roses. The piece, which was co-written with Frederica von Stade and
commissioned by Montecito residents Richard and Luci Janssen for
the Camerata in 2004, was sung on Friday by mezzo-soprano Angela
Niederloh, and the performance was dedicated by Ms. Janssen to the
recently departed Eli Luria. Niederloh’s approach differed
significantly from that of Frederica von Stade, who premiered the
piece here in the fall of 2004, and the audience was well satisfied
with it. It is wonderful to see the establishment of a new work in
the modern repertoire, and we are fortunate to have such
accomplished renderings of this intricate and heartfelt composition
to compare with one another. The Camerata’s adventurous audience
can look forward to more new commissions in the 2006-2007


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