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Camerata Pacifica Looks Over the Pacific Rim

The December program includes works by Huang Ruo and Johannes Brahms.

Camerata Pacifica will play some or all of its December program at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Music Academy of the West‘s Hahn Hall. (I applaud honoring the generosity of the Hahns. I just hope the academy can devise a means of permanently memorializing conductor Maurice Abravanel, whose name used to decorate the building.)

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Composer Huang Ruo
The December program consists of Four Fragments by Huang Ruo, the Violin Sonata in D Major, Opus 94 by Sergei Prokofiev, Capriccio, Opus 49 by Heitor Villa-Lobos and the Piano Quartet in C Minor, Opus 60 by Johannes Brahms. At the 1 p.m., or “lunchtime” concert, only the Ruo and the Brahms features will be performed. The participating Camerata musicians will include Catherine Leonard on violin, Richard O’Neill on viola, Ani Aznavoorian on cello and Anna Polonsky on piano.

Chinese composer Huang was born on Hainan Island in 1976, the year the nightmarish Cultural Revolution came to an end. His father is a notable composer, and probably had been exiled by the Red Guards to Hainan Island, hence Huang’s birth in the provinces rather than in some cultural center such as Shanghai.

His father, in any case, started teaching him composition and piano when he was 6 years old, and then sent him to the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he was admitted when he was 12.

Huang has been a busy composer. His Web site lists 132 works. Four Fragments was written in 2006 — written twice, in fact, since his catalog lists two compositions of that name, both from 2006, both lasting 12 minutes. One is for solo violin; one is for solo cello. I don’t know which the Camerata will perform, maybe a mix of the two.

Brahms wrote three quartets for piano and strings. Possibly because Brahms was a brilliant pianist (when he was 16, he supported himself playing piano in a bordello), the three piano quartets are much more memorable than his three string quartets. No. 1 in G Minor, Opus 25 is the most frequently played. It is also the most famous, on account of Schönberg’s popular transcription of it for full orchestra (Schönberg claimed that the quartet had been originally composed as Brahms’ first symphony, and that his transcription was more of a restoration).

Either way, I much prefer No. 3 in C Minor, Opus 60, which is the one the Camerata will be performing. It is full of beautiful melodies, drama, exciting rhythms and heart-on-sleeve pathos. What’s not to like?

Tickets to the Camerata concerts are available from Hahn Hall box office, just before the show, or from the Camerata at 805.884.8410, 800.557.BACH or www.cameratapacifica.org.

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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