Why does the music of nineteenth century German composer Ludwig van Beethoven still have such influence nearly two hundred years after it was written? That is the question that will be explored when an ensemble from Camerata Pacifica performs his “Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97” at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall on September 13. The trio consisting of violinist Paul Huang, cellist Ani Aznavoorian, and pianist Gilles Vonsattel will play the piano piece also known as the “Archduke Trio” back to back with contemporary Russian composer Lera Auerbach’s “24 Preludes for Violin & Piano,” demonstrating how Mr. Beethoven’s impact on classical music is still felt today.
This continues the “Why Beethoven?” project Camerata Pacifica started during its 2018-2019 season, which focused on the composer’s latter day string quartets, according to a press release. The 2019-20 season, beginning on September 8 with a performance at the Museum of Ventura County, will open with renditions of the Archduke Trio, which dates further back to Mr. Beethoven’s middle period. In that era, the composer wrote his most immediately recognizable symphonies, which were often imitated in the following years and debatably kick-started classical music’s romantic period.
Describing the Archduke Trio as “gnarly,” Camerata Pacifica’s artistic director Adrian Spence said the piece furthered the complexity and expressiveness of the piano trio as a musical format, just as Mr. Beethoven’s symphonies did for that format. Whereas before piano trios were simple pieces of music that nineteenth century families could play together at home, Mr. Beethoven elevated them to a higher level of artistic achievement.
As a companion piece to the piano trio, Mr. Spence chose a piece by Russian composer Lera Auerbach, believing her music had the gravitas necessary to be played alongside Mr. Beethoven’s.
“I needed a contemporary composer with heft to go up against the mighty Beethoven,” he said.
He ultimately decided on Ms. Auerbach’s 1999 piece “24 Preludes for Violin & Piano” as her songwriting format utilizes similar “models” that Mr. Beethoven used in his. He added that the “architecture” of the 24 preludes are “not entirely dissimilar” to that founding the Archduke Trio, and that the pieces’ respective sections stand on their own as a cohesive whole, but also form a cohesive whole when placed back to back. Mr. Spence was particularly impressed at how Ms. Auerbach managed to do this with 24 separate musical sections.
“It’s really cool. It’s a real challenge for the composer,” he said.
When the public hears Ms. Auerbach’s music played alongside that of Mr. Beethoven, Mr. Spence hopes both pieces will provoke an emotional response within the listeners, as “music at its best speaks to the emotional human experience.” Once they have connected emotionally with both pieces, he hopes they will think about both emotional experiences and compare them, just as the “Why Beethoven?” series is meant to encourage.
Camerata Pacifica’s 2019-2020 season will feature an additional performance at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall on October 4, comparing Mr. Beethoven’s “String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132” with Austrian composer Franz Schubert’s “Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960.” Tickets for the ensemble’s September 13 performance cost $58 and can be purchased online at cameratapacifica.org. The Music Academy of the West is located at 1070 Fairway Rd. and the show begins at 7:30 p.m.