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Gerald Carpenter: Camerata Concerts Have Strings Attached | Arts & Entertainment

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Camerata Pacifica plays its October program, the second in the 2022-23 season, at 7:30 p,m, Friday, Oct. 21 in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy; at 3 pm Sunday, Oct. 23 at the Museum of Ventura County in Ventura; 7:30 pm Tuesday, Oct. 25 at the Huntington Museum in San Marino; and 8 pm Wednesday, Oct. 26 in Zipper Hall at the Colburn School in Los Angeles.

The participating musicians will be cellist Jonathan Swensen, recently named Musical America’s Artist of the Month; pianist Soyeon Kate Lee, winner of first prize in the Naumburg International Piano Competition; and Yura Lee, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s principal viola, who will play:

Yura Lee

Yura Lee

Frédéric Chopin’s “Cello & Piano Sonata in g-minor, Opus 65 (1845-46),” Zoltan Kodály’s “Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello, Opus 8 (1915),” transcribed for viola by Lee, and Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s “Passacaglia, for Violin Solo in g-minor, C-105,” from the “Rosary Sonatas (ca1676),” played on the violin by Yura Lee.

Camerata’s artistic director, Adrian Spence, says: “I’m thrilled to be presenting such high-caliber artists in this thoughtful and intimate program, and we’re honored to introduce Yura, Jonathan, and Soyeon to our Camerata audiences.”

Compositions by Chopin (1810-49) in which the main, or only, instrument is not the piano, are very thin on the ground. Indeed, until I did a little research, I might have called the Cello-Piano Sonata unique in that category. But, although it turns out Chopin wrote works for flute and piano, a Trio in g-minor for Violin, Cello and Piano, other works for cello and piano, and a couple of dozen “Polish Songs,” the cello-piano sonata is the only one that continues to be regularly heard in concert.

What a surprising work it is! Strong, decisive — the work presents us with Chopin’s credentials as a modernist, and they have set him on a wave he is still riding, though many changes of fashion, still speaking to our condition.

According to Wikipedia, Zoltán Kodály (1882–1967) “was a Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, pedagogue, linguist, and philosopher. He is well known internationally as the creator of the Kodály method of music education.”

He was a lifelong friend of Béla Bartók, and the two were “champions of each other’s music.”

Be that as it may, Bartók and Kodály, who had scoured the European countryside together, harvesting folk songs, parted company during the 1930s — Kodály, remaining in Hungary to pursue a very successful dual career as a composer and academic, surviving the fascist nightmare , and living to the ripe old age of 85; Bartók emigrating to America, where he met some success as a pianist, none as a composer, and starved to death shortly after composing his greatest work, the “Concerto for Orchestra.”

Kodály’s “Solo Cello Sonata” is a bravura work — intense, introverted, folk-based, but having more in common with Bach’s six Solo Suites (BMW1007-1012) than with anything since — and it should fit perfectly within the range of Lee’s viola .

Any time I can assemble a complete Camerata program from my record collection, I start to wonder if Adrian might be losing his touch. It hasn’t happened very often over the decades, especially since they changed their name from the “Bach Camerata” to “Camerata Pacifica.”

Usually, there is at least one work, often more, unknown to me. These tend to be contemporary compositions, but this time, it is by a composer from the seventeenth century, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704). Biber was, as Dylan might have said, “famous long ago, for playing [baroque] violin,” but then of dropped out of earshot for a couple of centuries — until the Rosary Sonatas were discovered and published in 1905.

Biber’s music, undeniably baroque, has more in common with the works of Marin-Marais than with those of Bach or Handel. His sonatas take the form of internal monologues, exploring a circumscribed mental space, impervious to the passage of time.

Admission to all venues is $68. For tickets and other information, show up at the box office, call the Camerata Pacifica at 805-884-8410, email [email protected]or go online to

Masks and proof of full vaccination and booster are required at all Camerata Pacifica concerts.

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