Camarada Brings Winning Program of New Music to La Jolla Presbyterian Concert Series

The La Jolla Presbyterian Church Concert Series presented the chamber ensemble Camarada in Música Nueva Sunday as its contribution to the California Festival—A Celebration of New Music. A worthy program of seven recent works, including two Camarada commissioned compositions, charmed the La Jolla audience and aptly celebrated the California Festival’s theme.

(l. to r.) Travis Maril, Dana Burnett, Andrés Martin, David Buckley, Beth Ross Buckley [photo courtesy of Camarada]

Like his fellow Argentine Astor Piazzolla, Andrés Martin creates rhapsodic instrumental tangos that encompass contrasting moods without losing the dance’s vibrant pulse. In Martin’s single movement Tango Baja el Agua for flute, violin, double bass and piano, Camarada’s ensemble indulged his driving main theme with robust textures that alternated with suave solo interludes: creamy, languid solos from flutist Beth Ross Buckley, probing, angular forays from Martin’s contrabass, as well as expressive sighs and whispers from violinist David Buckley all supported by Dana Burnett’s polished, articulate piano collaboration.

Gilad Cohen engaged another genre in his clever Three Goat Blues for flute, violin, viola, and double bass. Violist Travel Maril’s opening phrases accented by subtle bent tones  suggested the sighs of traditional blues, and the mildly dissonant close harmonies added by the other voices along with the composer’s lively rhythmic figures fused humor and blues in an unlikely combination.

Gabriela Lena Frank’s Cinco Danzas de Chambi for viola and piano was written to honor the noted Peruvian photographer Martin Chambi. From this suite violist Maril gave a rollicking account of a movement sprinkled with edgy Bartókian dissonances, “P’asña Marcha.” His suitably athletic and slightly raucous performance was smartly assisted by pianist Burnett. An even more demanding showpiece, Valerie Coleman’s “Fanmi Imèn” (“Human Family”) for flute and piano soared with Beth Ross Buckley’s assured command of its dizzying flights that traversed the instrument’s entire register.

Powerful, sweeping themes from the lowest range of the double bass resonated powerfully in the church sanctuary as Martin offered his probing solo “Beyond Self.” Even more moving, however, were dramatic, clarion motifs played close to the bridge in the highest range of the bass.

Camarada bravely opened the concert on a subdued, almost mystical note with Miguel del Águila’s Absent Lights for flute, violin, and double bass. Beth Ross Buckley’s slow, serpentine themes contrasted with the strings’ dark tremolandos, and the flutist finished the piece offstage, providing a mysterious echo against the strings’ haunting pizzicato figures.

Using the same instrumentation as his Tango Bajo el Augua, Martin’s suite Abrazar al Viento (“Embracing the Wind”) contrasted colorful Latin American dances with shimmering, introspective solos, a winning combination that brought Camarada’s program to a stirring close.

This concert was presented by The Concert Series of the La Jolla Presbyterian Church on Sunday, November 12, 2023.

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