Performing Arts

Review: Texas Camerata

As usual, Texas Camerata devoted its program Saturday afternoon to music from two or three generations before Mozart. This means that the typical concert-goer would recognize few of the composers’ names. And those that they might — Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, for instance — would be more familiar to readers of music history books than readers of performance programs.

But Texas Camerata has a good track record for selecting interesting music by little-known composers, and that track record was upheld by Saturday’s program in the Renzo Piano Pavilion of the Kimbell Art Museum.

Texas Camerata plays instruments from olden times — or copies of them — with attention to bygone performance practices. There were eight players Saturday: violinists Kristin van Cleve and Ellen Lovelace, violist Donna Hall, cellist and viola da gambist Karen Hall, bassist George Dimitri, flutist Lee Lattimore and recorder player Paul Leenhouts, who transcribed and edited the afternoon’s music.

The afternoon started rather inauspiciously with Passacaglia From Sonata V by Georg Muffat, a composition from 1682. All the afternoon’s musicians participated. It was a decent enough piece but bland and not much of an attention-getter or program-starter.

The atmosphere quickly changed with one of my two favorites of the afternoon: Partita I by Andreas Christoph Clamer — another 1682 work. This created a nice mixture of moods, sometimes sad, sometimes catchy, but always interesting.

What followed was a kind of Schmelzer festival: five compositions from a man who lived from 1620 to 1680. I’ll admit to losing my way in the middle of this, but much of it was outgoing, some of it even humorous, and there were some impressive passages for flute duo.

The rest of the program included an American premiere of a sonata by Antonio Bertali (1605 to 1669) and music by Albrechtsberger (1736 to 1809) and Johann Christoph Pez (1664 to 1716). The Albrechtsberger Nocturne was especially pleasing; with it, you could understand why Beethoven thought enough of the man to go to him for music lessons.