Inventiveness reigns at Camerata Pacifica
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
Innovation proved the theme of the night at Tuesday’s concert comprised of Ian Wilson’s Heft, for Flute and Piano, Franz Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata. D. 821, and Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G. Minor, Op.25. Each of these pieces embodies a pioneering attitude, uniting the program into a cohesive whole of creativity, ingenuity, and vision.
Franz Schubert wrote Arpeggione Sonata D. 821 for an unusual new invention, the Arpeggione, a cross between a cello, guitar, and viola de gamba. Although Tuesday’s performance consisted of the piece transcribed for viola and piano, Richard Yongjae O’Neill’s virtousic and subtle interpretation (one that has resulted in his recording of the piece going platinum in Korea) personified the innovation that marked the night’s theme.
Johannes Brahms represents another avant-garde composer in the musical world. Arnold Schoenberg called him “Brahms the Progressive,” music critic William Youngren labeled him a “Proto-Modernist,” and pianist and theorist Charles Rosen dubbed him, “Brahms the Subversive.” Although Brahms composed in the nineteenth century, twentieth century composers, like Schoenberg, hail his style as distinctly modern. The Piano Quartet in G. Minor, Op.25 exemplifies progressive techniques including experimental harmonic language and asymmetrical phrasing. Violinist Nurit Pacht, violist Richard Yongjae O’Neill, cellist Lars Hoef, and pianist Kevin Fitzgerald performed the Rondo alla Zingarese on the edge, a frenzied, unrestrained rendition lauded by an audience, thoroughly captivated by the gypsy mood.
The program commenced with Ian Wilson’s Heft, for Flute and Piano, in which the opening section of the work was inspired by a quotation by the Egyptian conquerer, Amr Ibn Al-As, “I dreamt that heaven lay close upon the earth, and I between them both, breathing through the eye of a needle.” The flute in Wilson’s piece convincingly mimics the human breath as the audience awaits each carefully constructed note; each subsequent note becomes more vital than the previous one, like breathing itself. Wilson aptly titled his work “Heft,” a word with layers of meaning. The noun definition of Heft refers to weight, heaviness, importance, and influence. The verb definition of Heft signifies to raise, to elevate, or to test the weight of something by lifting it. The double-entendre in the title of Wilson’s inventive piece thus drives at the essence of music and its manifold purposes. Music is crucial, vital, and often weighty and dense. At the same time, music aims to raise and elevate the human intellect, heart, and spirit. The last definition, “to test the weight of something by lifting it,” is particularly fitting for modern music, like Wilson’s piece, which challenge traditional audiences to open their minds to unfamiliar and often complex new horizons, which make the musical journey that much more worthwhile.