Part of the charm of Camerata Pacifica’s programming stems from the return of certain musicians for their annual visits. British oboist Nicholas Daniel has been appearing with the Camerata for years, and his presence guarantees both beautiful, sophisticated sounds and a kind of casually Dionysian exuberance in both choice of material and manner of presentation. Although pianist Adam Neiman is younger, his visits are fast becoming a looked-for highlight of the season. With his glorious technique and thoughtful, analytic approaches, Neiman brings a wonderfully complementary Apollonian aspect to the proceedings. Taken together, the two soloists represent the full range of individuality and virtuosity that continues to make this organization such a generous contribution to our region’s musical culture.
Friday’s concert began with Neiman playing Chopin, the Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23. Neiman slipped quietly into the work and then built it impressively into a powerfully emotional climax. Next up was a work by 82-year-old British composer Thea Musgrave, the Cantilena for Oboe and String Trio. Catherine Leonard (violin), Ani Aznavoorian (cello), and Richard Yongjae O’Neill (viola) were the only players onstage at its beginning, although Daniel’s oboe could be clearly heard coming from the wings. At the three-minute point, the oboist walked onstage and joined the strings, first tentatively, as an outsider, and then warmly, as an equal member of the ensemble. Musgrave writes gorgeous melodies, and the theatricality of the piece served to underscore, rather than distract from, its inherent musicality.
The longest work on the first half of the program was the Schilflieder for Oboe, Viola, and Piano, Op. 28, of August Klughardt. Poised on the stylistic fault line between two opposing schools, Klughardt’s piece could have been a mess in the hands of the wrong musicians, but with O’Neill, Neiman, and Daniel, it played like a dream, merging seemingly incompatible styles into a dynamic and coherent whole. A short transcription of a piece by Astor Piazzolla done for the same trio of oboe, piano, and viola rounded out the pre-intermission offerings.
After the interval, the three principal string players of Camerata Pacifica came back to cast their spell with Beethoven’s String Trio in G Major, Op. 9, No. 1. Amazingly, Leonard, O’Neill, and Aznavoorian continue to improve at a rapid pace, conquering new musical territory with every performance. This was a thoroughly memorable and impeccably crafted concert, full of fascinating tonal color and collective joy.