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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 8:25 am | Fair 52º


Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Pacifica Tunes Heartstrings for Barber, Tchaikovsky and Elgar

If you found Camerata Pacifica’s April concerts a tad, um, esoteric (albeit generally gorgeous in performance), then I am happy to reassure you that you will have no reservations whatsoever about the group’s May events — locally, at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West.

Camerata’s May program will consist of Samuel Barber’s String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 11 (1935-36), Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s String Sextet in D Minor, Op. 70, “Souvenir de Florence” (1890) and Edward Elgar’s Quintet in A Minor for Piano and String Quartet, Op. 84 (1918). (Those attending the 1:30 p.m. performance will hear the Barber and Tchaikovsky, but not the Elgar.)

The participating Cameratans include Armen Ksajikian, cello; Giora Schmidt, violin; Robert Brophy, viola; Agnes Gottschewski, violin; Warren Jones, piano; Ani Aznavoorian, cello; and Richard Yongjae O’Neill, viola.

At Toscanini’s urging, Barber transcribed the slow movement of his only string quartet into a stand-alone piece for string orchestra. the maestro conducted the premiere and, as the composer of the Adagio for Strings, Op. 11a (1937), Barber achieved immortality at the age of 27.

Nevertheless, I prefer the movement in its original context, played by just four instruments: just as beautiful, but austerely so.

It is no accident that one heard the Barber Adagio floating out of thousands of undergraduate dormitory rooms in the 1950s and ’60s, along with Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor for violin, strings and organ and Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major (the ’70s would add Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary). Somber and stately, the Barber is pure baroque in spirit.

What with the immense popularity of his ballets, symphonies, overtures, concertos and other orchestral works, Tchaikovsky’s chamber music is frequently overlooked.

It doesn’t comprise a major part of his oeuvre, but there is a respectable amount, including four string quartets, a great piano trio and this string sextet, which the composer himself gave the title, “Souvenir of Florence,” because one of the main themes came to him while he was in that city, composing The Queen of Spades.

Still, it is neither program music nor travelogue, but a straightforward, abstract composition, in traditional four movements that adhere faithfully, if ingeniously, to the four-movement, sonata-allegro form. Being Tchaikovsky, of course, it is quite ravishing.

Elgar seems to have composed quite a bit of chamber music, much of it destroyed or left unfinished. What survives are a great many charming bibelots for stringed or wind instrument and piano, and three major works, all composed 1918-19: the Violin-Piano Sonata in E Minor, Op. 82 (1918), the String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 83 (1918) and this Quintet in A Minor, Op. 84 (1919.

The Quintet is in three movements, the outer two pretty but mysterious and distracted; the inner adagio pure, passionate Elgar.

Admission to the 7:30 p.m. concert is $56; to the 1 p.m. concert, $28. For tickets and other information, show up at the box office, 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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