The season finale for Camerata Pacifica put artistic director Adrian Spence out front for the first half of a delightful program that paired some intriguing 20th-century music from Italy and France with a second half devoted to the epic Quintet for Piano and Strings in F minor, Op. 34 by Johannes Brahms. Always a technically sound and sophisticated musician, Spence on Friday demonstrated profoundly thoughtful and expressive approaches to three different but related pieces, each of genuine interest on its own, but adding up to something like a miniature recital on the flute.
The first was the Trio for Flute, Violin, and Piano (1958) by Nino Rota. The Trio, which was played beautifully by Spence, Catherine Leonard, and Warren Jones, is a more traditional and serious work than Rota’s familiar film scores. Next was a gorgeous Sonata for Flute and Piano by French composer Philippe Gaubert. This is the kind of piece on which Spence really shines—romantic without sentimentality, lush without becoming saccharine; it was a perfect complement to the thrilling complexity of the opener. The final offering featuring the flute was the most unusual. Albert Roussel’s neoclassical Trio for Flute, Viola, and Cello, Op. 40 conjures a world in transition, drawing on a variety of compositional devices to keep the listener guessing. Ani Aznavoorian and Richard Yongjae O’Neill made it sing, and Spence was brilliant, blending his flute masterfully with each of the strings in turn.
After the intermission, it was time for violinist Agnes Gottschewski to join the principals and for Spence to take a well-deserved break as the quintet got down to business on the Brahms. It’s been quite a week for Brahms in Santa Barbara, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Camerata Pacifica, and the Santa Barbara Symphony each essaying works by the composer. This quintet version delivered exceptionally well, offering an unusually orchestral sound for a chamber ensemble.