Call Your Ma

Camerata Pacifica February Concert. At Temple Beth Torah in
Ventura, Sunday, February 11.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Camerata_Pacifica.jpgCamerata Pacifica continues to follow
its formula of juxtaposing “difficult” modern compositions with the
more adventurous aspects of the standard repertoire. Typically, the
first half of the program offers the avant-garde fireworks, while
the second soothes with virtuosity in the service of the old
masters. This time out the newer works were by Takemitsu, Crumb,
and Turnage, while the older pieces were by Beethoven and
Debussy.

The Takemitsu was up first — “Rain Spell.” It required relative
darkness and blue lighting from the stage crew, multiphonics from
the flautist (Adrian Spence), a harp (Marcia Dickstein), a clarinet
(Carol McGonnell), a piano (Robert Thies), and a vibraphone (Doug
Perkins). This highly wrought music is saturated with Takemitsu’s
characteristic devotion to an existential awareness of “ma,” the
constitutive silence out of which all music arises. Takemitsu’s
music grows more enchanting with every listen, and to hear it
properly one must experience it live. This was a stunning
performance and a triumph of interpretive mastery for the
group.

For George Crumb’s “Eleven Echos of Autumn,” Spence, McGonnell,
and Thies remained onstage, joined by Catherine Leonard on the
violin. The work builds from a “bell motive” and passes through a
series of arch-like echoing climaxes, some of which involve the
clarinet and the flute being played into the open piano with its
sustain pedal down. Crumb’s characteristic urgency was especially
evident in Leonard’s sharp attacks and McGonnell’s plaintive
explorations of the motive. The piece includes a whispered phrase
from the poetry of Garcia Lorca that is repeated one time each by
the violinist and the flautist. Very spooky and thoroughly autumnal
in the best sense, this performance was also insistently dramatic
and indelible from the memory.

After the interval, Thies played a short and delicate solo
homage to Takemitsu which was reminiscent of Satie and written by
the contemporary composer Mark Anthony Turnage. Then Leonard came
onstage to unleash two passionate sonatas for violin and piano, the
first by Claude Debussy and the second by Beethoven, the No. 5
in F Major, Op. 24 “Spring.”
Her playing was, as usual,
replete with crystal-clear musicality, taste, and passion. The
effect was spellbinding and the satisfaction was total. There are
few chamber ensembles anywhere that can approach either the
intelligently adventurous programming or the stylish bravura
musicianship of the current Camerata Pacifica. Long may they
reign.

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