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Gerald Carpenter: CAMA Brings In Dynamic Duo

Cellist Carter Brey and pianist Christopher O'Riley will perform together Wednesday at the Lobero

Carter Brey
Carter Brey

For its next Masterseries concert at the Lobero Theatre — at 8 p.m. Wednesday — the Community Arts Music Association is bringing two certified masters of their respective instruments: cellist Carter Brey and pianist Christopher O’Riley.

Brey and O’Riley will perform a program of three works, all of which will showcase both their individual virtuosity and their 10-plus years of collaborating as a duo. They will play Richard Strauss’ Sonata for Cello and Piano in F-Major, Opus 6, François Poulenc’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, Opus 143 and Frédéric Chopin’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in G-Minor, Opus 65.

The three sonatas have in common the fact that they are all considerably off the beaten path of each composer’s reputation.

Strauss is seldom discussed as a composer of chamber music, though he wrote quite a bit of it during what we might call his apprentice years. Chopin is celebrated almost exclusively for his solo piano works, and Poulenc, though 41 when he conceived the piece and 49 when he completed it, was so unfamiliar with the cello that he had to rely for the technical aspects on the expertise of cellist Pierre Fournier, to whom the sonata is dedicated.

Strauss (1864-1949) began composing when he was 6. He was 18 when he wrote his cello-piano sonata, during his first year at university. The voluptuous tone poems that made him famous were several years in the future, while the scandalous operas that made him rich were a couple of decades away.

Christopher O'Riley
Christopher O’Riley

Yet his mastery of every aspect of the two instruments was already virtually complete. The cello part is nimble, even acrobatic, yet the score flows seamlessly and smoothly, with no shocks for the listener. As Constant Lambert pointed out in his witty and educational Music, Ho!, you can take all the liberties you like with form and no one will object, so long as you don’t push too hard on the harmonic envelope.

Every piece Chopin wrote has a piano in it; only nine include other instruments. The Cello-Piano Sonata is the last work of his published in his lifetime. Since the cello, not the piano, carries the burden of the melody, the piece doesn’t remind the listener of anything else he wrote. It is gentle and lovely, and it makes one wish that he had written a good deal more chamber music for strings. If only he had numbered among his friends a violinist and violist whom he found as simpatico as he did cellist Auguste Franchomme.

Tickets for Wednesday’s concert are available from CAMA at 805.966.4324 or the Lobero box office at 805.963.0761.

— 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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