UC San Diego's Department of Music

February 02, 2012

  On February 6 at 7:30 pm at Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, Camera Lucida presents its first concert of 2012. This ensemble of world-renowned players from San Diego Symphony and UCSD music faculty will perform works by Beethoven, Martinu, and Schumann. Here is a welcome note from Charles Curtis, Camera Lucida artistic director, renowned cellist, and UCSD faculty member (you can read the complete concert program here).

After a hiatus of two months, and a change of year, we welcome you back to an evening of chamber music. Our last concert was nearly symphonic in scope: Wagner and Johann Strauss, and the only chamber work of Gustav Mahler. But tonight, we reduce our forces to the minimum: one duo, and a pair of trios.

Martinu, of course, manages to make almost a quartet out of his Duo for Violin and Cello, so furiously dense are the two parts. The originality of Martinu's music is in his melding of the atmosphere of folk and danse music with a very sophisticated and ambitious modernist program. In the Rondo, the simple and vigorous round-dance figures seem unproblematic enough, until the harmonies unhitch themselves from the wagon, spiraling into dissonances and chromatic climes that betray a mischievousness and perverse pleasure. And the cadenza sections truly verge on lunacy, both in the ruthless exploitation of the instruments' capabilities, and in their general lack of decorousness. Haunting double stops hint at fretted instruments like zithers or (could it be?) Hawaiian guitars.

But the opening Preludium is a movement of quiet grandeur, heartfelt and moving. Some of
the concluding passages in fact prefigure the mystical qualities of the late Shostakovich, stark and expressionistic.

Beethoven and Schumann are almost unthinkable without each other. One the one hand, Beethoven was the single greatest inspiration for Schumann; and on the other, early Romantic elaborations of Beethovenian ideas, by Schumann and Brahms in particular, have completed for us the picture of Beethoven's later output. So it is enlightening to hear these two masters paired off in two masterful Piano Trios.

The famous "Ghost" movement from opus 70 no. 1 is in fact in d minor, that quintessential key for a certain species of Schumannian melancholy, on perfect display in Schumann's Trio. The "Empfindsamkeit" of the Romantics, the "feelingfulness" or "sensitivity" captured in Schumann's marking "mit inniger Empfindung", is laid out as a model in Beethoven's slow movement, "Largo assai ed espressivo" - possibly the slowest of all of Beethoven's slow movements before the final period. A vast and shadowy space, tentatively probed by a halting recitativo, emerges as the uncertain enclosure of this world of complex feelings. To be experienced, all the same, in this radiant space, our welcoming and acoustically rich musical home. We are delighted to join you here tonight, and for the remaining five concerts between now and June, and we thank our stalwart supporter, Sam Ersan, for our good fortune.

I hope to see you here on Monday night!

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