Camarada Brings ‘Vivaldi’s Magic’ to The Conrad

On Saturday, San Diego’s well-established chamber music collective Camarada performed a concert titled Vivaldi’s Magic to a substantial audience at The Conrad in La Jolla. Half of the concert was devoted to works by Vivaldi, and for those of us for whom a little Vivaldi goes a long way, that was a wise decision.

Beth Ross Buckley [photo (c) Monique Feil Photography]

The opening salvo, Vivaldi’s Concerto for Flute and Violin in D Major, RV 512, proved the most successful of the Vivaldi offerings. Flute soloist Beth Ross Buckley, Camarada Artistic Director, and violin soloist David Buckley delivered the composer’s spirited, ornate themes with passion and polish, accompanied sympathetically by four strings and keyboard. I was enchanted by the quiet elegance of their middle movement, a serene minor mode “Largo” that reduced the orchestration to a glowing trio sonata featuring the two soloists.

Vivaldi’s Concerto for Guitar in D Major, RV 93, was an excellent vehicle to display the accomplished classical guitar virtuoso Fred Benedetti. His judiciously chosen dynamic contrasts not only carried well in the 500-seat Baker-Baum Concert Hall, but his vibrant sound, his deftly articulated lines, and his mesmerizing solo cantilena in the middle movement captivated his listeners.

Johann Christian Bach’s Keyboard Quartet in G Major, WB 66, enriched the concert with a splendid offering from of the most neglected of the several composer sons of J. S. Bach. Following the example of George Frideric Handel, this youngest Bach son left Germany as soon as he could to study in Italy, became a crafty composer of Italian opera, and then moved to London to stage public concerts and opera. This Keyboard Quartet for violin, viola, cello and piano reflects the early Classical gallant style that can be heard in early Haydn works.

Violinist Angela Xing, violist Travis Maril, cellist Abe Liebhaber and pianist Dana Burnett communicated the ebullience of this Bach delight with abundant understanding of its style. At the concert grand, Burnett’s keyboard prowess was able to come out of the shadows—she was reduced to playing an electronic harpsichord in the Vivaldi selections. Even from the front of the hall, the imitation harpsichord was inaudible, so Burnett’s continuo contributions were to no avail, although not having to endure the electronic instrument’s wan timbre was a minor consolation.

Contemporary Mexican composer José Enrique González-Medina’s Concierto Barroco fuses flamboyant Latine rhythms with his own deftly structured neoclassical textures. His colorful solo writing calls for flute, violin, cello and harpsichord, and kudos to flutist Beth Ross Buckley and cellist Abe Liebhaber for carrying out the composer’s intentions with verve.

Violist Travis Maril and contrabassist Andrés Martín turned François Couperin’s Treiziéme Concert into a very friendly musical duel over four movements. With Vivaldi’s ensemble concerto “La Notte,” RV 439, all eight of the Camarada musicians concluded the concert with fervor.

This concert was presented by Camarada at La Jolla’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 23, 2024.

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