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Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Pacifica to Play Late Schumann, Early Beethoven

The ensemble will perform two concerts Friday at the Music Academy of the West

The local February concerts by Camerata Pacifica will be at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West.

The program of chamber music will include John Harbison’s Variations, for Clarinet, Violin and Piano, Bright Sheng’s Seven Tunes Heard in China for Cello, Robert Schumann’s Märchenbilder (Fairy Tale Pictures) for Viola and Piano, Opus 113 and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Trio No. 4 in Bb-Major for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Opus 11, “Gassenhauer” performed by Camerata regulars José Franch-Ballester on clarinet, Catherine Leonard on violin, Richard Yongjae O’Neill on viola, Ani Aznavoorian on cello and Warren Jones on piano.

Those attending the 1 p.m. or “Lunchtime” concert will hear only the Harbison and Beethoven pieces.

I thought Camerata Pacifica had finally come up with a program that could be even partially reconstructed from my collection, but then I found a Telefunken/Das Alte Werk disc of Chamber Music by the Young Beethoven on Original Instruments: 1792-1800 — and there was the lovely Opus 11 Trio. But for the rest, including the Schumann, it was the Internet or the written word.

New Jersey-born Harbison (1938) was educated at Harvard, Berlin and Princeton, and studied with Walter Piston and Roger Sessions. He is a professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Best known for his operas and choral works — he received a Pulitzer Prize for music in 1987 for The Flight into Egypt — he is also the composer of a respectable body of non-vocal orchestral and chamber music. Harbison has fans in Camerata. In April 2010, it played his Quintet for Winds.

Since even the most familiar music cannot be adequately evoked in prose, there is little hope of conveying the virtues of Harbison’s Variations. It might help, however, to pass on Harbison’s simple and eloquent philosophy of composition. It is “to make each piece different from the others, to find clear, fresh large designs, to reinvent traditions.”

Sheng is also a continuing taste of Camerata, who in September 2010 presented the world premiere of Violin and Marimba. Born in Shanghai in 1955, Sheng is now on the faculty at the University of Michigan. In November 2001, he was awarded a MacArthur (“genius”) Fellowship, and he has since become the New York City Ballet’s first composer in residence. The Seven Tunes Heard in China for Cello, a kind of musical journal, is widely regarded as one of his most notable works.

One assumes that the Schumann Fairy Tale Pictures are miniature delights.

Relatively neglected, the chamber music Beethoven composed as a young man, much of it lacking opus numbers, offers some of the most charming, fresh and exhilarating music he ever penned. Neither terribly profound, nor nobly mature, the Trio is a wonderful case in point.

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). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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