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Camerata Pacifica Opens 2009 with Mostly Moderns

Violinist Nurit Pacht and pianist Anna Polonsky will play two chamber music concerts at Music Academy of the West.

Nurit Pacht
Nurit Pacht
The Camerata Pacifica chamber music company will play its January program at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall of the Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road. The participating Camerata members, violinist Nurit Pacht and pianist Anna Polonsky, will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano-Violin Sonata in f minor, Opus 80; Olivier Messiaen’s Le baiser de L’Enfant-Jésus / The Kiss of the Baby Jesus (No. 15 of Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus / 20 Glimpses of the Baby Jesus) for solo piano; Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F-sharp Major, Opus 78; and Karol Szymanowski’s Violin-Piano Sonata in d minor, Opus 9. The two works for solo piano will only be played at the evening performance; the 1 p.m. “lunchtime” concert will consist of only the Prokofiev and Szymanowski violin piano sonatas.

Anna Polonsky
Anna Polonsky
Prokofiev wrote very little for violin and piano, just the two sonatas and some early song arrangements, and the second sonata, in D Major, Opus 94a, is actually a reworking of a flute-piano sonata he had written three years earlier. The f minor sonata, and the D Major re-write, were both done for the composer’s friend, David Oistrakh. They did not meet as friends, however. Their first encounter was in 1927, at a concert celebrating Prokofiev’s return to the Soviet Union after nine years as an expatriate in Paris. The venue of the concert was the Odessa Conservatory and the star was the 18-year-old Oistrakh, who played the scherzo of Prokofiev’s first violin concerto. In the middle of the movement, Prokofiev jumped to his feet and shouted: “No! That’s not the way to play it, young man!” He then seated himself at the piano and played the movement as he thought it should go. Embarrassing, to say the least, for a hot shot young virtuoso. (Unless he believes in ghosts, Pacht need fear no such magisterial rebuke: Prokofiev died in 1953, on the same day as Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, and Szymanowski has been dead since 1937.) In 1938, when violinist and composer had become fast friends, and they were playing each other in a chess tournament, Oistrakh reminded Prokofiev about their first encounter. Now it was the older man’s turn to be embarrassed.

The sonata, inspired by a work by George Frideric Handel, is constructed like a baroque sonata, four movements alternating slow-fast-slow-fast. It has a kind of baroque gravity as well. During the rehearsals, Prokofiev remarked of the first movement that it sounded “like wind in a graveyard.”

2008 was Messiaen’s centennial, so there were a lot of his works put on the concert schedules of ensembles throughout the world. This one is blissfully short. If the title makes you think happy thoughts about “Away in a Manger” or “What Child is This?” think again.

Szymanowski composed his tempestuous Violin Sonata in 1904, during the first phase of his career, when he was under the influence of Chopin, Scriabin and the German late-Romantics.

Click here to order tickets online or call 805.884.8410 or 800.557.2224.

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