This season, the chamber music group known as Camerata Pacifica has spread its wings by including Zipper Hall on its list of Southern California venues. . Based in Santa Barbara but peopled by fine Los Angeles musicians, the group helps fill the void for chamber music programming locally, covering a range of repertoire, from traditional to easy-does-it contemporary work.
Founder Adrian Spence is a flutist with a gift for gab, and he freely demonstrates both talents onstage -- sometimes to a fault, for those who believe in the less-said-the-better approach. Saturday, Spence's flowing preliminary comments seemed aimed at softening the presumed blow of a 20th century program.
He needn't have worried. In a concert where two Russians -- Schnittke and Shostakovich -- framed a great American composer still awaiting credit due --William Bolcom -- the concert went easy on "difficult" listening.
The highlight came early, and in a surprising, compact package, with Schnittke's short but intriguing "Stille Nacht for Violin and Strings," played by violinist Benny Kim and the Los Angeles Philharmonic pianist Joanne Pearce Martin. Schnittke deconstructs and playfully sullies the Christmas chestnut. What initially plays like sardonic satire expands into a haunting study of the vicissitudes of listening, addressing and undoing our sentimental sense of ownership for classic melodies.