Monday, May 21 , 2018, 1:56 am | Fair 58º


Gerald Carpenter: Stars of Camerata Pacifica Shine On

Revel in works by Ravel, Wilson, MacMillan and Janácek during Friday's concerts in Hahn Hall

The program for the January concerts of Camerata Pacifica consists of four works: Ian Wilson’s Spilliaert’s Beach for Alto Flute and Piano (1999), James Macmillan’s Kiss on Wood for Violin and Piano, Leos Janácek’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, Opus 21, and Maurice Ravel’s Trio in A Minor for Piano, Violin and Cello performed by Adrian Spence on flute, Catherine Leonard on violin, Ani Aznavoorian on cello and Charles Owen on piano.

Ian Wilson
Ian Wilson

The concerts will be at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall on the Music Academy of the West campus. For the 1 p.m. performance, only the Janácek and the Ravel pieces will be performed.

Among the many benefits of Spence’s presence among us is his dedication to spreading the word about contemporary composers in the Celtic fringes of the British Isles. Wilson was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1964; Macmillan at Kilwinning, Scotland, in 1959. Contrary to what you might expect from their countries of origin, it’s Wilson who was most likely raised a Protestant, Macmillan who is certainly a Roman Catholic — and a very active one to boot (he and his wife are lay Dominicans).

As suspicious as one might be of music one has never heard, one can take heart from noting that both Wilson and Macmillan have enjoyed spectacular success — which would not have happened if either or both wrote aggressively weird or ugly music.

Those attending the lunchtime concert, who nevertheless want to know what you missed, there are complete performances of both the Wilson and the McMillan pieces posted on YouTube. Just Google the composer’s name and the work.

Every time I hear a piece by Janácek (1854-1928), I have to remind myself that he is a contemporary of Edward Elgar, and Americans George Whitefield Chadwick and Arthur Foote, rather than of Paul Hindemith or Igor Stravinsky.

Like Berlioz, Janácek is seldom given credit for the astonishing originality of his work. He is fiercely romantic and aggressively lyrical, and his music instantly engages our attention and sympathy — not to say our passionate devotion. His name belongs in the first rank of European composers, and yet it’s not firmly lodged there. One reason for his relative obscurity is that most of his early successes, in his own country, were with vocal music — operas, songs and choruses — all written in a language (Czech) that is spoken by few outside the bounds of Bohemia.

Most of what the rest of us know him for — the Sinfonietta, Taras Bulba, the two amazing string quartets, this violin sonata, etc. — were written in the last couple decades of his life. There were lots of younger composers on the scene, with the connections to get their works regularly performed. The freshness and uniqueness of his music had to wait a long time to be appreciated.

“I wrote the Violin Sonata in 1914, at the beginning of the war when we were expecting the Russians in Moravia,” the composer said. “I could just about hear sound of the steel clashing in my troubled head.” He was 60 years old, and just beginning the time of his greatest creativity.

The Ravel Trio is, of course, an established masterpiece, with Ravel’s usual blend of extraordinary delicacy, heart-on-sleeve lyricism and hard-headed wit.

For tickets and other concert information, click here or call Camerata Pacifica at 805.884.8410.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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