One of the benefits of having a world-class chamber music organization in town is the opportunity to listen to great players change and develop over time. Camerata Pacifica’s Catherine Leonard came to Santa Barbara five years ago as a dazzling violinist with a warm, rich tone and tremendous inherent musicality-in other words, as a mature player. But time and experience have worked their magic, and Leonard’s gift has deepened through the course of successive seasons into something yet more precious and exhilarating. On Friday, Leonard and longtime collaborator Warren Jones took on the Sonata for Violin in A Major, K. 526 (1787) of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It’s a relatively late piece by Mozart, written in the months between the completion of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the initiation of work on Don Giovanni, and in consequence it displays enormous range and resonance, effectively bridging the gap between Bach and Beethoven. Leonard and Jones gave it their all, summoning powerful feelings with extreme delicacy and sending pulses of ravishing color out along the melody’s arcing and intertwining lines.
Ani Aznavoorian brought some personal interest to her introduction to Lera Auerbach’s beautiful and exciting Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano, Op. 69 (2002). Auerbach and Aznavoorian were suite mates at Juilliard, and it seems the pianist/composer was even then a thoroughly intriguing example of the romantic artist type. Her composition certainly conjured the image of a young woman capable of great passion and daring. The challenging bowing techniques required of Aznavoorian yielded sublimely spooky results, and Jones was more than equal to the grand dynamics and fireworks in the piano writing. This was an excellent piece of new music that somehow, without having any obvious connection to it, fit perfectly with the Mozart.
After the interval, clarinetist Bil Jackson joined Aznavoorian and Jones for the Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano in A Minor, Op. 114 (1891) of Johannes Brahms. Jackson does everything well, but he seems made for Brahms. The subtle, overlapping lines of the cello and the clarinet took on a burnished tone that blended with the piano until the three instruments began to sound like deep musical breaths feeding a single beating heart.