Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

I am a Camerata

September 19, 2008

l - r: Warren Jones, Catherine Leonard, Richard Yongjae O'Neill, Ani Aznavoorian, and Adrian Spence
Photo: Marta Elena Vassilakis/Camerata Pacifica 2008
The Huntington Library in San Marino would seem the ideal location for chamber music. And in practice, it is certainly a beautiful, if not entirely successful one. Or at least that’s my take on things after seeing the opening performance of this year’s season from Camerata Pacifica, Adrian Spence’s well-regarded chamber ensemble. Based out of Santa Barbara, the group's various members and guests perform nine months out of the year in several combinations in Santa Barbara, Ventura, the Huntington, and Zipper Hall in downtown Los Angeles. They’re a remarkably talented and well-appointed group that programs a fair variety of new and standard works, so when a friend invited me along to see them in the lovely San Marino setting, I happily agreed. Chamber music from a consistent group of musicians who spend their professional lives doing just that is always a big treat and with the notable profiles of Camerata Pacifica's members, their shows should always be highly recommended.

If there was any big draw back to the evening, it was the Bayreuth-like technical limitations of the meeting room-come-concert hall facilities at the Huntington Library, which were sweltering without the noisy air conditioning turned on. Open windows also appeared to be too noisy so it was time to sweat it out. Luckily the musical attractions were significant. After an overly-long and indulgent introduction, flautist Spence joined in on a quasi-period practices approach performance of J.S. Bach’s second orchestral suite that Spence noted was intentionally performed without vibrato. Sadly, being in tune was also absent from the first couple of movements, but things improved as it went along. Piano accompanist Warren Jones featured prominently in the remaining bits of the program including Haydn’s final piano sonata and Dvorak’s piano quintet Op. 81. Jones made a case for Beethoven's influence on Haydn in the sonata which came off rather well. The Dvorak quintet was very impressive and, though at times a little plodding and heavy-handed, it was a moving and enthralling account that I’m sure won over many new fans in the sizable audience as it did me. Camerata has a number of great programs scheduled throughout the year in their usual haunts any of which would be worth seeing. Details can be found in the link above.

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