Camarada’s Consummate Display of Virtuoso Chamber Music

San Diego is fortunate to have a few venues that are particularly favorable for performing chamber music. La Jolla’s Auditorium at TSRI and UC San Diego’s Conrad Prebys Concert Hall come immediately to mind.

Dana Burnett, Beth Ross Buckley, Micah Wilkinson, David Buckley [photo courtesy of Camarada]

But nothing compares with the immediate and personal communication of hearing chamber music in a spacious private home. On Saturday (September 30), Beth Ross Buckley and Dana Burnett’s Camarada presented a sparkling, invigorating chamber concert featuring San Diego Principal Trumpet Micah Wilkinson in a capacious North County residence.

In addition to Camarada’s customary high performance standards, the success of this unusual concert can be attributed to shrewd programming and Wilkinson’s ability to modulate his brilliant instrument to produce a wide spectrum of colors and dynamic shadings. The opening Trio Sonata for Trumpet and Violin by Johann Quantz set the standard for the evening: muscular counterpoint shaped by lithe, supple phrasing in the fast movements and shimmering, sustained lines in the slow movements.

If violinist David Buckley’s dynamic range did not quite equal Wilkinson’s, he matched him with bold, incisive phrasing, and pianist Dana Burnett’s cleanly animated accompanying brought these two players into harmonious equilibrium. The engaging character of this trio sonata made me wonder why Quantz’s chamber music is not played more widely.

American composer James Stephenson’s 2009 Croatian Trio, a smashing tour de force for flute, trumpet and piano, abounded in virtuoso flourishes for each player, yet transcended mere display with solid architecture and witty interplay among the instruments. In the opening movement, for example, the composer armed flutist Ross Buckley and Wilkinson with sharp contrapuntal thrusts that suggested an elaborate sword fight in a staged costume drama. The trio also required intricate high-pitched patterns on piccolo trumpet, which Wilkinson dispatched with admirable finesse. And the arch, busy turbulence of the final movement produced the supercharged excitement that splendidly summed up Camarada’s programming aspirations. For the curious, Wilkinson explained that the Croatian Trio title was chosen because Stephenson was commissioned to write the work for a music festival in Zagreb, Croatia.

As a prelude to French composer Marcel Bitsch’s Quatre Variations sur un thème de Domenico Scarlatti, Burnett played two charming, single movement piano sonatas by Scarlatti. In the A Major Sonata, Burnett’s pellucid articulation and deft rubato carried the day, and her mastery of the D Major’s galant effusions infused that sonata with apt Iberian allure.

Although Bitsch was lauded as a distinguished teacher of counterpoint at the Paris Conservatoire during the last century, his catalogue of compositions is slight, devoted almost exclusively to chamber music. Wilkinson delivered his Scarlatti Variations for trumpet and piano, elegantly structured and replete with technical challenge, with complete confidence and a refreshing catalogue of contrasting colors that prevented the work from sounding like a test piece for instrumental competitions, a genre few French composers have been able to transcend.

Keeping with the French flavor, Ross Buckley offered Henri Dutilleux’s Sonatine for flute and piano, a slight, post-impressionist rhapsody fitted into a neat academic structure. Her limpid lyricism and fleet dispatch of the work’s two cadenzas brought out the best in this modest gem. With David Buckley and Burnett, she gracefully navigated Philippe Gaubert’s Medalles Antiques, another spirited chamber work indebted to the style of Debussy and the French conception of Spanish musical culture.

This concert presented by Camarada was given on Saturday, September 30, 2017, in a private San Diego residence and was repeated on Sunday, October 1, at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Camarada will perform its next program at Bread and Salt in Barrio Logan on November 4, 2017.

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