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Thursday, January 24 , 2019, 5:41 am | Fair 42º


Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Pacifica Plays the Odds

Its April program will be performed twice on Friday in Hahn Hall

Camerata Pacifica will play its April program in Santa Barbara at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall on the Music Academy of the West campus.

Huang Ruo’s music gives the phrase instant classic a positive spin.
Huang Ruo’s music gives the phrase “instant classic” a positive spin.

Camaratans Nicholas Daniel on oboe, Catherine Leonard on violin, Richard Yongjae O’Neill on viola, Ani Aznavoorian on cello and Adam Neiman on piano will play Elliott Carter’s Oboe Quartet; Krzysztof Penderecki’s String Trio (1991) ; Huang Ruo’s Book of the Forgotten, for Oboe and Viola (public premiere); Camille Saint-Saëns’ Oboe Sonata in D-Major, Opus 166; and Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Trio in D-Major, Opus 9, No. 2. (The 1 p.m. “lunchtime” program will include only the Carter, Penderecki and Beethoven pieces.)

Assuming that the final say on the music to be played in a Camerata concert still rests with Adrian Spence, I really think he deserves some sort of lifetime achievement award for adventurous programming.

Carter and Penderecki are two pillars of modern-contemporary music. Posterity will decide on the beauty, the enduring emotional power of their works, but the present is unanimous in conceding the integrity of their respective visions, the elegant sincerity of their art. Music is a public art; integrity and sincerity are public virtues. They have both earned their place in the Pantheon.

Ruo (born in 1976) came from a very large island in the Gulf of Tonkin and went to the Juilliard School to study composition and earn a doctorate. Since an early age, he has possessed the aura and assurance of an old master. Christina Mamakos, who collaborated with Huang on a video, describes his musical technique in the following way: “Using an inventive musical voice which draws equal inspiration from Chinese folk, western avant-garde, rock and jazz, Ruo creates a seamless series of musical works that do not necessarily exist in the sound world of our daily life.”

Of Saint-Saëns’ last four Opus numbers (166-169), three (166-168) are sonatas for a wind instrument and a piano. All three are masterpieces: melancholy, precise, breathtaking.

Saint-Saëns had entered his ninth decade; most people, if asked, would have said they thought he was dead. He was completely out of date. But there has never been a composer so utterly indifferent to what other people thought of him. After playing the first performance of Cesar Franck’s Piano Quintet from a score on which the dedication of the work to him was handwritten by the composer, Saint-Saëns picked up the score, glanced at the inscription, dropped it on the piano, and left without taking it. In 1921, the year of the wind sonatas, he traveled to North Africa by airplane, caught a chill and died of pneumonia on Dec. 16, 1921 at the Hôtel de l’Oasis in Algiers. He was 86.

Reviewing Saint-Saëns’ performance as soloist in a Wolfgang Mozart concerto, Marcel Proust wrote: “Thus, when Saint-Saëns sat down, like a young student of the Conservatoire to play a Mozart concerto, and played it so simply, there was not one stroke of genius in the C Minor Symphony, not one of the sad strains in Henri VIII, not one of the lovely choruses in Samson et Dalila, not one of the richly inventive Johann Sebastian Bach transcriptions, which was not there, surrounding the musician with a choir as impressive as the choir of the muses, smiling on the genius which they maintained, like a sacred fire, in his soul, and diffusing enchantment and enthusiasm and respect through ours.”

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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