Adrian Spence introduced Friday evening’s program by reassuring those who were not comfortable with 20th-century composers that they had nothing to worry about. Had they the public relations muscle of the Los Angeles Philharmonic behind them, Camerata Pacifica might be known as the country’s most prestigious and adventurous chamber-music organization. As it stands, CamPac will have to remain a not-so-well-kept secret. Friday’s program began with Elliott Carter’s Oboe Quartet, for Oboe and String Trio (2001). With regular guest Nicholas Daniel on hand to play the oboe and Camerata principals Catherine Leonard (violin), Ani Aznavoorian (cello), and Richard Yongjae O’Neill (viola), this 17-minute masterpiece roared through Hahn Hall, with Daniels producing torrents of the most forceful and dynamic sounds. Another stringent exercise followed in the form of a 1990 string trio by Krzysztof Penderecki. The highlight of the first half, and of the evening, was an incredible public premiere of a new commission from composer Huang Ruo. Ruo’s “Book of the Forgotten for Oboe and Viola” is 19 minutes of continuous revelation. When the history of 21st-century music is written, this man’s contribution will figure in in a major way.
After the interval, two works in D Major—an oboe sonata by Camille Saint-Saëns (featuring the great pianist Adam Neiman) and a string trio by Beethoven—ushered the audience back into something resembling a conventional musical world, but after the majesty of Ruo’s take-no-prisoners modern-renaissance style, there lingered an aura of the absolutely new.