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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 3:14 am | Fair 48º


Stars Shine for CAMA’s 90th Birthday

Images from community treasure's past provide a stirring tribute to how far it's come

The Community Arts Music Association celebrated its 90th birthday Friday evening at the Music Academy of the West, with the help of a contemporary young star and a visual cascade of luminaries from the past.

CAMA members convened in Hahn Hall for a two-part concert honoring the astonishing array of past musical guests, and a performance by the young piano virtuoso Vassily Primakov. Everyone then strolled the short distance to Lehmann Hall for a champagne reception.

The first part of the concert was a slide show of CAMA’s history, accompanied by an ensemble playing portions of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “String Quartet in F Major, Op. 19, No. 1.” The musicians were exemplary: Laura Hackstein, first violin; Emily Sommerman, second violin; Valerie Malvinni, viola; and Claudia Vanderschraaf, cello.

The slide show was a treasure trove of photographs and printed programs depicting CAMA’s growth. It charted its progress from the tiny Civic Music Committee formed in 1919 to the present thriving organization that brings artists such as Lang Lang, Renée Fleming and Itzhak Perlman to this small city.

Faces of past guests flashed by on the screen — Sergei Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky, Martha Graham, Sir Georg Solti, on up through the years to Michael Tilson Thomas and Esa-Pekka Salonen. The first concert was depictured showing 90 members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic having arrived by train to play on Feb. 5, 1920, at the Potter Theatre. After the Potter was leveled in the 1925 earthquake, subsequent CAMA concerts were booked into the Lobero Theatre, the Arlington and now the elegantly restored Granada.

Following the photographic trip down memory lane, pianist Primakov took the stage to play the “April” section of Pyotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons, Op. 37b.” The Moscow-born Primakov has scholastic credentials too numerous to list individually, including a summer at the Music Academy of the West in his teens and studies at Juilliard with Jerome Lowenthal. Before hitting the concert circuit, Primakov also received a host of prizes and honors, among them the 2007 Classical Records Foundation “Young Artist of the Year” award.

He poured heart and soul into the Tchaikovsky, his face mirroring all the emotion inherent in this most Russian music. His expressions reflected the composer’s passions in the four-part work, culminating in a powerful finale allegro vivace. At the conclusion, the CAMA audience rose for a standing ovation, and Primakov responded with a brief encore by Chopin.

The soloist mingled with the guests afterward at the reception, which was catered by the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort. There were elegant hors d’oeuvres, plenty of bubbly and a couple of dessert tables laden with gourmet sweets, most of them chocolate.

Along with the printed program, CAMA handed out color brochures for its upcoming 91st season. In addition to Lang Lang, Fleming and Perlman, there will be appearances by such relative rarities as Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra with “The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres” and Jordi Savall directing Hesperion XXI with soprano Montserrat Figueras.

After 90 stellar years, CAMA is well on the way to the century mark.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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