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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 11:18 am | Fair and Breezy 61º


Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Pacifica to Play French, German and American Works

The ensemble will perform its May program at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall

Camerata Pacifica will play its May program locally at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road in Santa Barbara.

Composer Jake Heggie
Composer Jake Heggie (Ellen Appel photo)

The 7:30 p.m. program will include Maurice Duruflé’s Prélude, Récitatif, et Variations for Flute, Viola and Piano, Opus 3*, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Variations in F-Major, Opus 66, for Cello and Piano*, Jake Heggie’s Soliloquy (world premiere), Wolfgang Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in B-Major, K 454 and César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F-Minor, M. 7* (the “M” number refers to Wilhelm Mohr’s catalogue of Franck’s works, published in 1969 and rapidly becoming the industry standard). The 1 p.m. program will consist of the Duruflé, Beethoven and Franck pieces only.

The players are mostly Camerata Pacifica stars and stalwarts: Adrian Spence on flute, Catherine Leonard on violin, Ara Gregorian on violin, Richard Yongjae O’Neill on viola, Ani Aznavoorian on cello and Warren Jones on piano.

Duruflé (1902-1986) was, somewhat anachronistically, mainly a church musician. For 57 years he was official organist of St-Étienne-du-Mont church in Paris (which contains the tombs of the famous Jansenists Blaise Pascal and Jean Racine, and the revolutionist Jean-Paul Marat is buried in its cemetery).

His most famous work is his 1947 Requiem, Opus 9, and the great majority of his few other published works are religious-themed pieces for solo organ. The 1928 Prélude, récitatif et variations is virtually his only piece for chamber ensemble. In 1939, he served as soloist for the first performance of Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani in G-Minor, but aside from that, probably the only disruptive events in his tranquil life were his 1953 civil divorce from Lucette Bousquet — the pope annulled this marriage the same year, making it possible for the devout Catholic to marry again, which he did — and the 1975 automobile accident that left him a house-bound invalid for the rest of his life.

Apart from Johann Sebastian Bach, no composer in history has made so great a contribution to the literature for cello as Beethoven. In addition to the five sonatas for cello and piano, major masterpieces all, there are three gorgeous sets of variations — one on a theme of George Handel, two on themes from Mozart’s Magic Flute. Only the second set of Mozart variations has an Opus number, but that certainly doesn’t mean the other two sets aren’t as wonderful — we’re talking about Beethoven, after all.

Soliloquy is not the first “world premiere” of a Heggie work that has come to us through the good offices of the Camerata Pacifica. His song-cycle, Winter Roses, was first performed by Frederica von Stade with a chamber ensemble of Camerata players on Oct. 9, 2004, in the Marjorie Luke Theatre. Heggie is mainly known for his operas, but the other works in his catalogue are bound, most of them, to work their way into the frequent-performance category.

Most Franck scholars consider his

his masterpiece. So do most audiences — and your present correspondent. Camille Saint-Saëns, who played the piano at the first performance, and to whom the work is dedicated, is sometimes said to have been of another opinion. Franck was dazzled by his performance, and rushed up afterwards full of praise and gratitude. He presented the pianist with the manuscript score, the hand-written dedication clearly visible and legible. Saint-Saëns got up from the piano, giving every indication that he was in a foul mood. He grimaced at Franck’s approach, took the score without comment, glanced at it and tossed it on the piano — where it remained until after Franck’s death.

Truly, a singular incident. Our sympathies are all with Franck, and his unappreciated masterwork. Yet, is Saint-Saëns really the villain here? It’s just as likely that his actions, his apparent rudeness, were unconnected to the work he had just played so beautifully. Perhaps he had been in a bad mood all day. Perhaps the concert was a courtesy in the form of a duty for the younger composer — about whom no endearing legends have accrued. He was not a part of Franck’s circle, and he was conscious that his presence made it more of an event. When he was done, he wanted to be gone. But his perfectionism demanded that he play each note as written, and that was all the opportunity Franck’s music needed. Only a genius could be so completely at odds with his context and still be the ideal medium of another man’s masterpiece.

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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