Sonata Summa

Camerata Pacifica’s September Concert

At Temple Beth Torah, Ventura, Sunday, September
17.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Few concerts of any kind achieve this level of interest and
depth. The program followed a simple progression — a violin sonata
followed by a cello sonata, capped by a trio for violin, cello, and
piano. Yet nothing was obvious, or less than amazing, about either
the music or its execution by violinist Catherine Leonard, cellist
Ani Aznavoorian, and pianists Robert Thies and Warren Jones.
Spanning the limits of the 19th century repertory from Beethoven
and Schubert to Rachmaninoff, the concert brought listeners
directly to a deeper understanding of the roots and sources of
musical expression. This concert showed that what the Pirke Aboth
says about the Torah — “Turn it over and turn it over, for all
things are in it” — could as easily be said, in a musical sense,
about the repertoire of the 19th century.

And turn it over is just what these prodigious musicians did.
Leonard’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 in A
Major, Op. 47
, known as the “Kreutzer,” was at once full of
feeling and yet focused by an artful detachment. Her phrasing never
faltered as she rode the waves of the piece’s increasing complexity
toward an unforgettable finale. Leonard tore into some sections
with such tenacity and abandon that she seemed to leave the
ground — quite a feat for someone in a gown and heels, playing one
of the world’s most challenging violin parts.

Aznavoorian was next, and she and Thies, who was the pianist for
both of the duos, made a seamless, hypnotic, lustrous tapestry of
the Rachmaninoff. Aznavoorian’s gorgeous tone was made for this
kind of music and her delight in the voluptuous nature of the
composition was apparent. Few musicians who have played with
Camerata Pacifica in the past two years have achieved Aznavoorian’s
level of musicianship, comfort, and joy.

Leonard and Aznavoorian were joined for the Schubert by Camerata
principal pianist Jones. The Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Op.
100
is one of the most sprightly and irrepressible pieces in
the entire chamber repertoire. The surging, echoing, and revolving
cyclical themes of its two final allegro moderato movements take
chamber music somewhere it had never gone before. With this
marvelous trio now all tied to the organization as principals,
Camerata Pacifica will continue to do likewise, taking discerning
listeners with them.

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