When the month of December rolls around, I am eager for almost any program that is NOT Messiah, Nutcracker or any dramatic spectacle disinterred from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. So when Beth Ross Buckley and Dana Burnett’s chamber collective Camarada announced they were playing an all-Vivaldi program (but no “Seasons,” thank you so very much!) in the funky Bread and Salt venue in barrio Logan, I could not resist.
As expected, Camarada’s short program offered several smartly played Vivaldi concertos featuring some of the city’s best soloists, but the real treat of the evening was C.P.E. Bach’s Double Concerto for Piano and Harpsichord. This rococo gem pits the then upstart fortepiano—for which Mozart had already written a slew of genre-establishing concertos—against the august but increasingly unfashionable harpsichord in a friendly competition which Sebastian Bach’s most successful son would have titled “Dueling Keyboards” had he possessed savvy marketing skills.
Pianist Burnett infused her ebullient passages with energetic propulsion, while harpsichordist Mary Barranger answered with cleanly defined, coy retorts. Stylishly supported by Camarada’s string quartet du jour (given the evening hour of performance, that should be “du soir”) and the plangent timbres of oboist Sarah Skuster and flutist Ross Buckley, the concerto cast an enchanting spell on the ample crowd seated on folding chairs in the spartan reburbished industrial hall.
My sole cavil is that Camarada tantalized us with only the first movement of Bach’s Double Concerto, a complaint I will gladly relinquish if next season Camarada programs the complete Double Concerto. Oh—replacing the digital harpsichord with a real one would be nice, too.
Ross Buckley found a trove of contrasting colors and moods for her extravagant flute solo in Vivaldi’s “La Notte” Concerto, Op. 10. No. 2, a wildly programmatic piece whose six short movements suggested a restless night filled with ghosts and bad dreams. Bassoonist Ryan Simmons gave a refined and lyrical account of Vivaldi’s G Major Bassoon Concerto, RV 492, an inventive work that struck my ears as a welcome alternative to Mozart’s frequently programmed Bassoon Concerto, K. 191.
Bassist Jory Herman (no relation) offered a well-tailored, earnest solo work listed as Vivaldi’s Concerto for Double Bass in F Major, Op. 3, No. 9. Accompanied only by cellist Erin Breene and Burnett on harpsichord, this arrangement of Vivaldi’s original Op. 3, No. 9, the Concerto Grosso in D major for violin and strings, RV 230, sounded more like a solo sonata than a concerto. Nevertheless, it gave the accomplished bass player his moment in the sun.
The next opportunity to hear Camarada is Jan. 17, 2015, at the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. The program is titled Salt Water Jazz. www.camarada.org