Camerata Pacifica’s May Concert

At Victoria Hall Theater, Friday, May 19.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

The basset horn is a straight bass clarinet that was popular in
the 18th century, particularly as played by Mozart’s friend and
musical associate, Anton Stadler. On Friday, Bil Jackson produced
one of these remarkable instruments to give us an
original-instrument version of Mozart’s famous Clarinet Quintet
in A Major, K. 581
, known as the “Stadler,” after the
performer for whom it was written. Following a brief introduction
in which he demonstrated the horn’s remarkable low end — four
semi-tones lower than an ordinary clarinet — Jackson proceeded to
take the reins and effectively conduct the quintet from the basset
horn. His fellow musicians included guests Nurit Pacht and Jennifer
Frautschi on violins, Felix Fan on cello, and Donald McInnes on
viola. The piece overflows with Mozart’s characteristic delicacies:
four movements, each with its own flavor — the first slightly
melancholy; the second bursting with elaborate clarinet lines set
against muted strings; and the third and fourth bristling with
trios and lyrical melodies reminiscent of Mozart’s operatic style.
The violinists made it especially rewarding, giving full vent to
the airy, theatrical qualities of the music.

In the second half of the program, a string trio comprised of
Frautschi, McInnes, and Fan was joined by pianist Warren Jones for
Brahms’s Piano Quartet in A Major, Opus 26. Jones
introduced the piece by likening it to the experience of climbing a
large mountain, and the comparison proved dead on. The steady,
step-by-step increase in altitude was accompanied by an
extraordinary sense of constantly shifting panoramas. At times the
earliest vistas became invisible, only to arise again at the most
unexpected moments. The playing on this piece, particularly that of
guest artist Jennifer Frautschi, was exquisite, perfectly in touch
with the romantic spirit of both Beethoven and Schubert, Brahms’s
most intimate influences. The “Poco Adagio” of this quartet is both
rhythmically innovative and blessed with a beautiful melody.

Overall the evening made a most fitting end to another stellar
season of chamber music as presented by Camerata Pacifica. There
are few pleasures comparable to hearing the work of Brahms and
Mozart interpreted with this much passion and intelligence, and the
capacity audience seemed well satisfied with the evening. Let’s
hope that with next year’s concerts scheduled for a much smaller
venue — Lehmann Hall at the Music Academy of the West — the music
and concept of Camerata Pacifica continues to find and expand the
curious, critical, and lucky audience it deserves.


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