Monday, November 12 , 2018, 3:32 pm | Fair 74º

 
 
 
 

Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Pacifica Strings Together Bach, Chausson

Ensemble will perform its first concerts of the new year at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday

The first Camerata Pacifica concerts of the new year will take place at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West.

Virtuoso violinist and conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky is also famous for his arrangements.
Virtuoso violinist and conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky is also famous for his arrangements.

The brilliant Camerata stalwarts performing will be Catherine Leonard on violin, Richard Yongjae O’Neill on viola, Ani Aznavoorian on cello and Adam Neiman on piano.

The deceptively simple program consists of only two works: the Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 of Johann Sebastian Bach, arranged for String Trio by Dmitry Sitkovetsky, and the Quartet in A-Major for Piano and Strings, Opus 30 by Ernest Chausson.

The music of Bach, particularly the keyboard music, appears to be infinitely transcribable. So long as the transcriber-arranger is competent, the transcription gives us an illuminating, kaleidoscopic view of music that remains 100 percent Bach. I rather suspect that the list of composers whose insight into their craft made a quantum and decisive leap through the transcription of Bach composition is both long and inclusive. Since his rediscovery by Felix Mendelssohn, Bach has become every composer’s secret weapon.

Instrumentalists, too, gain immeasurable knowledge of their own instruments in the process of transcribing a Bach sonata or partita for it. With all due respect to Sitkovetsky — the talented violinist-conductor-arranger born in 1954 in the oil city of Baku, Azerbaijan — I should not think that transcribing Bach is a daunting task: Bach has actually done all the work, and his notes remain his notes whether they are played on a harpsichord, flute, cello or marimba. It’s only when you try to “improve” on the original that you get into trouble.

The one recording I own of the Chausson Piano Quartet was released in 1958 on the “SFM” label. André Previn is the pianist. The initials “SFM” stand for “The Society for Forgotten Music,” which is certainly appropriate, since this is the first recording of this astonishing work — 61 years after it was written.

Chausson’s friend, composer Gustave Samazeuilh, wrote of it, “It is, in my opinion, Chausson’s most complete work, most significantly typical of the musician’s personality by the blending of intense lyricism and serene sensibility one finds in it.” Most French music historians agree. Why, then, the obscurity? In the opinion of Vernon Duke, “My guess is that the diabolically difficult (the last two pages of the piano part are well-nigh unplayable) finale is largely to blame — it consumes too much rehearsal time.”

But, I hasten to add, the difficulty is all for the player, not for the listener.

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

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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