The chamber music organization Camerata Pacifica will play its December program at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday (note the early day) in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West. The performers will be a piano duo consisting of Joanne Pearce Martin and Gavin Martin.
I first became aware of Pearce Martin as a charter member of Camerata, where she performed as a soloist and in chamber ensembles. Her talent bowled me over. Had I been in Los Angeles instead of Santa Barbara, I perhaps would have learned of her first as a member of this noted duo.
Pianists enjoy playing in duos, I think. Whenever I have been at a gathering at which two pianists — and at least one piano — were present, they almost invariably wind up sitting down at the keyboard together. They don't even have to like each other, still less be married as are the Martins, for almost any amount of antipathy can be overcome by the fun of the music-making. In a convivial, social setting, that is; on stage, as a professional piano duo, there must be a somewhat different dynamic at work, including a good deal more practice. But the fun still has to be there, or the duo doesn't hold together long.
The Martins, I might add, have been playing duets since 1984, when they were students together at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, so the fun must still be there.
Those of us attending the evening performance will hear the "Allegro" from Wolfgang Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 16 in C-Major, K. 545 (arranged for two players by Edvard Grieg); the "Barcarolle" and "Tears" from Sergei Rachmaninoff's Suite No. 1 "Fantaisie-Tableaux" for Two Pianos, Opus 5; Mozart's Sonata in D-Major for Two Pianos, K. 448; Franz Schubert's Fantasie in F-Minor for Piano Four-Hands, D. 940; "Fêtes" from Maurice Ravel's arrangement for two pianos of Claude Debussy's Three Nocturnes (1899); and Witold Lutoslawski's Variations on a Theme by Paganini (1941). (Those attending the 1 p.m. "lunchtime concert" will hear all but the Mozart K. 448 and the Lutoslawski.)
As long as we have emotional lives, so long will Rachmaninoff continue to speak directly to us, without explanation. The Opus 5 Suite, written when he was 20, is not so much melancholy as haunting and transparent. The long adagio "Tears," which might seem likely to bring out the worst in Rachmaninoff, brings out the best instead. The amazing effects are achieved with nuance and discipline; he never lapses into the lugubrious.
The Lutoslawski was composed in 1941, under peculiar circumstances, which would make little or no sense, even to me, if I were to try to sort them out. The Paganini theme is the same as that used by Rachmaninoff in his celebrated Rhapsody. It is a madcap work, cranky and engaging, aggressively lightweight. Only a great composer sends off these kinds of sparks in his lesser works, and Lutoslawski was a very great composer.
For tickets and other concert information, call Camerata Pacifica at 805.884.8410 or click here for its website.