Camerata Pacifica's "Why Beethoven" Project Continues with Two Notable C Minor Sonatas and Different Trains by Steve Reich

Published : Tuesday, January 22, 2019 | 11:24 AM

Camerata Pacifica continues its “Why Beethoven?” project with a program (perhaps too simple a word) that reveals music as a vehicle of compassion, mortality and humanity.

The journey begins with Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano & Violin in C Minor, Op. 30, No. 2, written between 1801 and 1802, when the composer was grappling with hearing loss. It was during this time that Beethoven wrote his famous “Heiligenstadt Testament,” a moving letter addressed to his two brothers that expressed anguish over his increasing deafness. This sonata is written in C minor, a special key for Beethoven, which he used for some of his most legendary works, in particular his Fifth Symphony, Third Piano Concerto and Pathétique Sonata. It is with this sonata that Beethoven’s more emotional heroic style, driven by his personal crisis, begins to surface.

The second work on the program is Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 111, the last of his sonatas, written in 1822, about six years after Beethoven went completely deaf. The sonata, comprised of two movements, opens in conventional sonata form, but soon gives way to experimental, unyielding energy and conflict. Beethoven’s last piano sonata presents the known amongst the unknown, pushing the boundaries of musical expression beyond the familiar, before finding resolution in the key of C major.

Concluding the journey is Steve Reich’s Different Trains. During World War II, Reich made train journeys between New York and Los Angeles to visit his parents, who had separated. Years later, he pondered the fact that, as a Jew, had he been in Europe instead of the United States at that time, he might have been travelling in Holocaust trains.

Different Trains is a three-movement work for String Quartet and pre-recorded tape. In the composers words, “Different Trains begins a new way of composing that has its roots in my early tape pieces It’s Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966). The basic idea is that carefully chosen speech recordings generate the musical materials for musical instruments.”

Reich used voice recordings of his governess; a retired Pullman porter who used to ride lines between New York and Los Angeles; recordings of holocaust survivors living in America; and American and European train sounds of the ‘30s and ‘40s.

Reich notes, “The piece thus presents both a documentary and a musical reality and begins a new musical direction.”

Why Beethoven? Panel Discussions

Complementing the “Why Beethoven?” musical programs, Camerata Pacifica is presenting a series of three in-depth panel discussions. Beethoven experts from all over the world will gather for dynamic conversations about Beethoven’s influence, from past to present.

The first panels discussion, “Revolutionary or Evolutionary?” will be held on:

• Thursday, January, 24 at 7 p.m. at Santa Barbara City College
• Friday, January 25 at 7 p.m. at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music.

Watch Camerata Pacifica Founder and Artistic Director talk about the panel series here.

Participating scholars include:

• Daniel K.L. Chua, Professor and Chair of Music at the University of Hong Kong

• James Donelan, Associate Director of the UCSB Writing Program (January 24 & 25)

• Lydia Goehr, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University

• Derek Katz, Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (January 24 & 25)

• Anne Midgette, Classical Music Critic, Washington Post

• Andrea Moore, Assistant Professor of Music, Smith College

• Richard Yongjae O’Neill, Principal Violist for Camerata Pacifica

• Jan Swafford, Composer, Writer, Author of Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph (January 24 & 25)

Please click here for the complete schedule and more information.

Subscriptions ($219–$522) and single tickets ($58) can be ordered online at or by calling (805) 884-8410.

Camerata Pacifica

Adrian Spence, Artistic Director
Ani Aznavoorian, principal cello
Kristin Lee, The Bernard Gondos Chair in Violin
Richard O’Neill, principal viola
Jason Uyeyama, violins
Gilles Vonsattel, piano

Program Includes:
BEETHOVEN Sonata for Piano & Violin in C Minor, Op. 30, No. 2
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata in C Minor, op. 111
REICH Different Trains

Founded in 1990, Camerata Pacifica is dedicated to engaging audiences intellectually and emotionally by presenting the finest performances of familiar and lesser-known masterworks in venues that emphasize intimacy and a personal connection with the music and musicians. Camerata Pacifica’s celebrated chamber musicians are drawn from across the globe – from Taiwan and Korea, to England and Spain and, of course, the U.S. For more information, call (805) 884-8410 or visit







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