Camerata Pacifica‘s first concerts of the new year will feature oboist Jose Franch-Ballester, violinists Paul Huang and Jason Uyeyama, violist Scott Lee, cellist Ani Aznavoorian, and pianist Gilles Vonsattel, performing Sergei Prokofiev’s “Violin & Piano Sonata No.1 in f-minor, Opus 80” (1938-1946); Alfred Schnittke‘s “Prelude for Two Violins in Memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich” (1975); and Johannes Brahms‘s “Clarinet Quintet in b-minor, Opus 115” (1891).

The Camerata’s publicity material calls the Prokofiev sonata “brutal,” and it’s a fair enough characterization. It was written during a period that witnessed Stalin’s purges and show trials, not to mention World War II; but I wonder if “uncompromising,” or “harshly pessimistic” might be nearer the mark.

As we know from hearing “Romeo and Juliet,” written just two years before, that Prokofiev was capable of the most exquisite sweetness and delicacy.

Either his spirit suffered a drastic sea change — though his large scale orchestral works like his “Seventh Symphony” or the ballet, “The Stone Flower,” continued with his unique version of twentieth century romanticism — or he had simply begun to use his chamber music as a private diary, giving voice to the dark realities of Stalin’s Russia as he no longer dared to do in public.

Still, Prokofiev was Prokofiev, and the sonata is a great and riveting work of art.

Alfred Garriyevich Schnittke (1934-98) was a Russian composer of Jewish-German descent. He was, in my opinion, rather a great composer, too, endlessly fascinating, prolific, and — for all his undeniable strangeness — more accessible than not.

And the Brahms — ineffably sweet and lyrical — will be our reward for listening respectfully to the stern history lesson the Russians have to teach.

This program will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17 at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Fleischmann Hall (“while Camerata Pacifica’s long standing Santa Barbara home, Hahn Hall at the Music Academy, undergoes  lighting and technology upgrades.”)

Admission is $68. For tickets and other information, show up at the box office, call the Camerata Pacifica, 805-884-8410, email, or visit