Sunday, June 17 , 2018, 6:57 pm | Mostly Cloudy 64º

 
 
 
 

Camerata Pacifica Opens Season in Fine Form

Works by Turina and Beethoven — and one by Ruo — strike a chord with audiences at Hahn Hall

Not to take anything away from our community’s perpetual infatuation with summer, but autumn is here at last, meaning fine music is back in season — and that includes Camerata Pacifica.

Camerata offered two concerts on Friday in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West, one in the evening and one in a slightly truncated version at lunchtime. Artistic director Adrian Spence strolled onstage at the luncheon concert, wearing a sports shirt and a relaxed smile as he welcomed the audience.

The musicians were the usual (fine) suspects: Warren Jones on piano, Catherine Leonard on violin, Richard Yongjae O’Neill on viola and Ani Aznavoorian on cello. The music was by Joaquin Turina and Ludwig van Beethoven. The temperature was in the 70s, the sky was blue — and all was right with the world.

The foursome played Turina’s Quartet in A Minor, Opus 67, composed in 1931. Jones, before taking his seat at the Steinway, reminded the audience of “what Turina was experiencing at that time” in Spain, on the eve of the brutal Spanish Civil War. The music was not laden with foreboding; the actual war didn’t start for another five years after its publication. But Turina was doubtlessly aware of his country’s looming ordeal.

Turina’s three movements were heavily Andalusian in character, and Jones dominated the first and third from the keyboard. Of course, the strings quickly asserted their respective voices in the theme initially announced by Jones. The first movement, lento-andante mosso, showed Turina’s debt to Impressionists such as Maurice Ravel, then carried through with his own characteristic flourishes. The second, vivo, was lively and rhythmic, featuring pizzicato in the strings. The third movement, andante-allegretto, contained bursts of rhythm, interspersed with more solemn passages, all following a lovely solo by Leonard’s violin, which was then taken up by Jones at the piano.

Acting as a counterweight to Turina’s lively but changeable moods was Beethoven’s Quartet in E-Flat Major for Piano and Strings, Opus 16. This is a transcription of Beethoven’s Quintet for Piano and various wind instruments, also numbered Opus 16, and was completed when the composer was 26 years old.

Some musicologists have suggested that Mozart taught Beethoven at some point, but there is no proof of this. Nonetheless, the first movement of this piece, grave-allegro ma non troppo, has echoes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Still, Beethoven was his own man, and his music always reflects that.

The second movement, andante cantabile, has a serene quality that the players maintained beautifully. The third, rondo-allegro ma non troppo, has Beethovian storminess but brings all to a gratifying conclusion.

The evening concert featured these two works and To the Four Corners by contemporary composer Huang Ruo, born in 1976. The entire program will be repeated Wednesday in San Marino and Thursday in Los Angeles.

So, farewell summer — for now — and welcome back to the Camerata Pacifica and the other ensembles scheduled in the autumn and winter weeks to come.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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