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Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Pacifica Performance Explores Music’s Romantic Impulse

The great and adventurous chamber ensemble, Camerata Pacifica, plays its October concert at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West.

The performers will be Giora Schmidt, violin; Michael McHale, piano; Timothy Eckert, double bass; Adrian Spence, flute; and Ani Aznavoorian, cello, playing a program that consists of Gioachino Rossini’s Duet in D-Major for Cello & Double Bass (1824); Carl Maria von Weber’s Trio in g-minor for Flute, Cello, & Piano, Opus 63 (1819); the world premiere of Ian Wilson’s “AT” Trio for Flute Violin & Cello (commissioned for Camerata Pacifica by Jordan Christoff); and Bedřich​ Smetana’s Trio in g-minor for Piano & Strings, Opus 15. (Those attending the 1 p.m. performance will hear the Rossini and the Smetana only.)

This is, by and large, a romantic program — the likely exception being the piece by Spence’s fellow Ulsterman, Wilson, who is also the only composer represented not known chiefly for his operas.

None of the half-dozen pieces I have heard by Wilson would lead me to suppose him to be any variety of romantic, but each piece has been very different from the others, and Wilson is famous for his surprises.

If he were not the composer of The Barber of Seville, The Italian Lady in Tangiers, Cinderella and several other great operas, I doubt if we would be much interested in Rossini’s occasional lapses into chamber music.

The Duo is lively and tuneful, and draws deeply on the technical resources of its performers, but it is not exactly stand-alone memorable. For what it's worth, Jacques Offenbach was also devoted to the double bass, was a virtuoso performer on it, and wrote some interesting duets.

But was Rossini a romantic? I think, in the first place, that all operatic composers, from Claudio Monteverdi through Richard Strauss and Alban Berg, can be justly so described.

“Music is feeling, then, not sound,” as Wallace Stevens wrote, and human emotion is the raw material of all operas.

Rossini’s stirring arias and ensembles were sung to halls packed with romantics, who worshipped him. (He was Stendahl’s favorite composer.)

We need hardly ask if Weber was a romantic; he holds several patents on the sound. One music historian said that the horns in the Der Freischütz Overture herald the advent of German romantic music.

Unlike those of Rossini, Weber’s purely instrumental works now tend to be performed more often than his operas, and they are decidedly more substantial. He wrote symphonies, concertos and a great deal of delicious chamber music.

Wind players have particular cause to be grateful to his pen, as this trio attests.

Smetana was a romantic nationalist, and the reason his instrumental music is more famous than his operas outside his native Bohemia is that few audiences understand Czech, and few singers can sing it. His melodies are heart-breaking or inspiring or both.

Plus, like that arch-romantic Robert Schumann, Smetana died mad, in an asylum — a very romantic thing to do, alas.

Admission to this concert is $56. Tickets and other information are available at the Music Academy of the West box office at 1070 Fairway Road, or call Camerata Pacifica at 805.884.8410, or email [email protected].

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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