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Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Pacifica Looks on ‘Bright’ Side

Chamber ensemble will perform at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall

The ever-innovative chamber music association, Camerata Pacifica, will perform its April program in Santa Barbara at 1 and 7:30 p.m. this Friday, April 13, in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road.

Among the participating Cameratans will be Adrian Spence on flute, Steve Becknell on horn, Catherine Leonard on violin, Ani Aznavoorian on cello, Paul Coletti on viola, Ji Hye Jung on percussion, Adam Neiman on piano and Bil Jackson on clarinet. They will, in various combinations, be performing four works: Bright Sheng’s Hot Pepper, for Violin and Marimba, Eric Ewazen’s Ballade, Pastorale and Dance, for Flute, Horn and Piano, Sheng’s Melodies of a Flute, for Flute, Violin, Cello and Marimba (world premiere); and Ernő Dohnányi’s Sextet in C-Major for Piano, Clarinet, Horn and String Trio, Opus 37.

All four works will be heard in the evening; only the Ewazen and Dohnányi pieces will be played at 1 p.m.

Sheng, who lives in New York but has not entirely shaken off the syntax of his native Shanghai, writes on his website: “Hot Pepper is commissioned by Camerata Pacifica by Bob Peirce as a birthday celebration for his wife, Sharon Harroun Peirce. The premiere of the work takes places on Sept. 10, 2010, by Catherine Leonard (violin) and Ji Hye Jung (marimba). The two-movement Hot Pepper for violin and marimba is based on a folk song from China’s Si Chuan [Szechwan] province, which is well known for its hot and spicy cuisine.”

Ballade, Pastorale and Dance,” Ewazen says, “was composed in the winter of 1992-1993. It was commissioned by and is dedicated to David Wakefield and Barli Nugent, who premiered the work at Aspen in July of 1993. The combination of flute, horn and piano produces a chamber music ensemble with wonderful possibilities in terms of contrasting colors and textures, resulting in a kaleidoscopic world of alternating moods and dynamics. The first movement begins ominously and mysteriously, but quickly turns frenetic and wild with spinning flute flourishes percussive horn gestures and dramatic piano chords. The second movement, composed during the winter holidays, has a gentle impressionistic feel. Long, beautiful and personal songs are sung by both the horn and flute. The final movement, with its lively dance rhythms, brings the piece to an exhilarating conclusion.”

Sheng says of his Melodies of a Flute that it “was commissioned by Luci Janssen, for her husband Richard, on the occasion of their 40th wedding anniversary. It was written for Camerata Pacifica, who gave the premiere performance on April 10, 2012, at Huntington Library of San Marino, with Adrian Spence on flute and alto flute, Catherine Leonard on violin, Ani Aznavoorian on violoncello, and Ji Hye Jung on marimba and small suspended cymbal. .. The work was inspired by the poetry of Li Qingzhao (ca.1084-ca.1051 BC), arguably the most important woman poet in the history of Chinese literature. Unlike her (mostly male) contemporaries during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Li was audacious in expressing her deep feelings, sometimes in a rather direct and sensuous way ...”

Dohnányi (1877-1960) dominated Hungarian music between the two world wars. He is now performed less frequently than Béla Bartók or Zoltán Kodály, whose work he promoted, often at the expense of his own. Bartók and Kodály were nationalistic, however — that is, they drew heavily on Magyar folk themes for their material — and Dohnányi, while unquestionably a patriot, composed more in the vein of the dominant international (German) style of the period.

Few composers of the 20th century were able to live only on their compositions. They had to be instrumentalists, conductors, teachers. Dohnányi, something of an overachiever in addition to being a world-renowned piano virtuoso, was also chief conductor of the Budapest Philharmonic, the director of the Academy of Music and the music director of the Hungarian Radio. He began composing young enough to attract the attention of Johannes Brahms, who admired his Piano Quintet in C-Minor and championed the work in Vienna.

The Sextet dates from 1935. In its form and scale — classical four movements; 30 minutes in length — it is distinctly Brahmsian with, as Mark Twain would say, some stretchers. We are likely to feel we have made a significant discovery when the Camerata plays it.

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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