Music Review: SAMUEL MARIÑO (Camerata Pacifica)

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by Tony Frankel on June 26, 2023

in Concerts / Events,Music,Theater-Los Angeles


As many more SoCal music lovers are discovering, Camerata Pacifica is a chamber music ensemble based in Santa Barbara that performs a monthly series of concerts in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Marino (at the Huntington), and DTLA’s Zipper Hall (at Colburn School). Founded by Adrian Spence in 1990, the group is composed of the finest performers of chamber music from around the world (see my review of a program earlier this season). The ensemble is distinctive for artistic excellence, an innovative approach to classical music and a repertoire that ranges from baroque to brand new, from familiar masterworks to works that have yet to become favorites (see the CP YouTube channel). The 2023/24 season is underway, and it would be best for you to get on board  — I’ve been attending for years, and every program has been a wake-up call for the endless possibilities in programming. Even if you’re a classical music queen, get ready for great surprises.

Samuel Mariño with the Camerata Pacifica players
offer Pergolesi's Salve Regina in C Minor (Timothy Norris)

Indeed, the final program of this past season has stayed with me since May. It was a booking coup for Spence to get Venezuelan-born male Sopranista Samuel Mariño to make his U.S. debut with Pergolesi’s Salve Regina in C Minor. Confused about the terminology of male soprano and countertenor? Me, too. I had heard that they are both falsetto voices; one lies in the very high register, and one in the lower register, but I’ve heard that neither one is the ‘root’ voice of the singer. Well, I have heard many counter-tenors in my day but never in my life have I heard such a voice coming from an adult man. The soprano is not only Mariño’s root voice, it is his chest voice! Can you imagine how that sounds in an intimate auditorium? Written in Pergolesi’s last few months (he died at 26), this is music of great tenderness and somber beauty, which includes chromatic sequences, sighing passages and dramatic dissonance straight out of the operatic style that had first made Pergolesi famous. I also admired Mariño’s tunic, only to find that he designs his own clothing!

Nicholas Daniel and Samuel Mariño (Timothy Norris)

Mariño’s expressive style and rich intensity was a wonder — a rare phenomenon. His comedic encore was the aria “Quella fiamma, che il petto m’accende” from Handel’s opera Arminio, featuring oboe player Nicholas Daniel, one of Britain’s best known musicians. And I say “encore” lightly, as this was clearly planned. What wasn’t planned was the formidable and humorous give-and-take between the artists. Daniel is, hands down, the finest oboist I have ever heard. Strong, sensitive, ringing, and clear, Daniel’s tone is the stuff of legend. As astoundingly and entertainingly satisfying the duo was, the players who gorgeously accompanied Mariño on the Salve Regina were perfection.

Playing John Adams' Shaker Loops for String Septet (Timothy Norris)

For the 34th Season of Concerts, there are ten widely varied programs drawing from the limitless range of chamber music, and will as usual be performed by massively talented, highly characterful artists. Every concert is a highlight, so absolutely the best way to experience Camerata Pacifica is often (and they’ve been sold-out for many programs this year, so perhaps a subscription to ensure seats–plus, subscribing forces you to get out of the house and hear intimate music the way it was meant to be heard — now move!).

Emi Ferguson, flute (Fay Fox)

A special recommendation is coming up in October, 2023: From Bach to Bolivia, the debut of Camerata Pacifica Baroque, the period instrument annex, with the ineffable 18th-century phenomenon Emi Ferguson as Music Director & traverso (a Baroque flute); Katie Hyun, violin; Coleman Itzkoff, cello; and Mikael Darmanie, harpsichord. The repertoire for the inaugural Baroque concert includes five seminal Bach chamber works: Prelude and Fugue; Trio Sonata No. 5; Prelude; Trio Sonata No. 2; and Toccata and Fugue. They are set against six anonymous chamber works composed during the same era in Bolivia, which were rediscovered in the past 20 years in the Chiquitos Music Archives housed in a Bolivian Jesuit mission church and compiled by Dr. Piotr Nawrot. Bridging Bach’s masterworks and the anonymous works composed on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean is La Folia by Doménico Zipoli, an Italian composer who completed his musical training in Europe before moving in 1717 to Córdoba in Spanish Colonial America (now in Argentina), where he served as music director for the local Jesuit church. CP Baroque will present another program later this season April 21-26, 2024: The French Dispatch will offer a selection of rarely heard French Baroque repertoire.

Katie Hyun, violin (Shervin Lainez)

In addition, look to December, 2023, when Joseph Lin will perform the Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach.  Then ring in the New Year 2024 with a program of old and new; Mendelssohn, Brahms, Globokar & Hatzis. Jose, Ani, Gilles, the debut of YuEun Kim … and big time audience favorite, Ji Hye Jung. Irina Zahharenkova has immediately and firmly established herself as part of the Camerata ensemble. In February she’ll be joined by Sébastian Jacot, Solo Flute in the Berlin Philharmonic, for a program that will be beautiful, wild and blazingly virtuosic. The season-closing program will be one of our forever-talked-about programs (just like last season’s closer), with a world premiere of a commission from Clarice Assad written for Camerata Pacifica musicians and the accordion superstar Julien Labro.

Coleman Itzkoff, cello (courtesy of artist)

Camerata Pacifica
May, 2023 (program notes)

Adams – Shaker Loops
Bach – Non sa che sia dolore, BWV 209
Pergolesi – Salve Regina in C Minor

Samuel Mariño, Catherine Gregory, Joseph Lin, Tricia Park, Jason Uyeyama, Agnes Gottschewski, Jonathan Moerschel, Aaron Oltman, Ani Aznavoorian, Raman Ramakrishnan, Tim Eckert, Paolo Bordignon, Catherine Gregory

Friday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. – Music Academy
Sunday, May 14 at 3 p.m. – The Scherr Forum Theatre, Thousand Oaks
Tuesday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. – The Huntington
Thursday, May 18 at 8 p.m. – The Colburn School

Samuel Mariño (Olivier Allard)

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