Camerata Pacifica Martini Club

Cam Pac Subscribers Discuss Criticism with Panel

Camerata Pacifica principals Ani Aznavoorian, Richard O'Neill, and Catherine Leonard performed Beethoven at Roy.

Camerata Pacifica prides itself on a tradition of vital interaction between the performers, the presenter, and the audience. As much as artistic director Adrian Spence loves to talk, he seems even more interested in getting others, especially his subscribers, into the conversation. On Tuesday, April 14, Spence convened the faithful for one of CamPac’s Martini Club events at restaurant Roy. At 5:45 p.m., Catherine Leonard, Richard O’Neill, and Ani Aznavoorian took to the small alcove next to the entrance and performed one of Beethoven’s early string trios, the C Minor, Op. 9, No. 3.

After an excellent performance that gave full voice to the passionate mysteries that lie behind the great composer’s first bold steps away from the Viennese tradition, the musicians and the audience settled in for an hour of discussion. The topic, set by Spence but to some extent occasioned by the writing of music critic George Gelles (whose reviews have been perceived as maliciously sarcastic and negative and who was not present), was this: “What is the role of the music critic in 21st-century classical music?” The panel assembled included this writer, speaking on behalf of The Independent; NancyBell Coe, director of the Music Academy of the West; Andrea Moore, executive director of Camerata Pacifica; and Nicholas Daniel, the guest soloist for this month’s Camerata Pacifica concert, a successful conductor, and one of the world’s foremost oboists. Camerata boardmember David Robertson moderated the discussion.

The conversation that followed was sharp and lively, and pointed to a few important issues that face all the parties concerned with music and its public reception. Coe seemed to speak for everyone on the panel when she admitted that it was hard not to take a maternally protective attitude toward the reviews received by students at the Music Academy of the West, and younger musicians more generally. Nick Daniel added that, given the challenges of mounting a successful career in what he termed not “classical” but rather more simply “great” music, “We are all of us always up and coming,” and therefore in need of articulate public recognition. Andrea Moore argued that presenting organizations require the same degree of careful attention and recognition as individual musical careers if they are to develop awareness and draw the right kind of attention.

Things got even more animated when the session was opened to questions. A dozen people spoke, all extremely well, about their experiences and concerns with critics and with music. I learned a lot just from listening to their observations, which are steeped in an extraordinary collective historical memory of great music, its performance, and its reception. And afterward, Roy served everyone a great meal.


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