Julien Labro | Courtesy of the artist 

The accordion isn’t generally thought of as a classical instrument. But leave it to the innovative chamber ensemble Camerata Pacifica to not only add an accordion virtuoso to its impressive roster but also feature him in a world premiere.

The instrumentalist is Julien Labro, a French native who, since moving to the U.S., has performed both jazz and contemporary classical music to great acclaim. For Camerata Pacifica’s season-closing concerts next May, he will join clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester and percussionist Ji Hye Jung for a new work by Clarice Assad.

Assad and Labro have previously collaborated. She wrote the piece Clash for Labro (on bandoneon) and the Takács Quartet, who premiered it at the 92nd Street Y in New York in 2022.

“I came across the accordion as a classical instrument about a decade ago and sought to use it in my programming. It just took this long,” explained Camerata Pacifica Artistic Director Adrian Spence. “I met Julien about five years ago, first hearing him live in Dizzy’s Club in New York.

“I’d been aware of Clarice for a long time, and this project seemed perfect — her facility across genres, her Brazilian-American background, fit right into Camerata Pacifica’s vision of classical music for the 21st century.”

The season will also feature the debut of Camerata Pacifica Baroque, a series of concerts highlighting works of the Bach-Handel era. The music director here will be acclaimed flutist Emi Ferguson, winner of a 2023 Avery Fisher Career Grant.

“Emi is a force of nature whose approach complements what I’ve been doing with the Camerata,” Spence said. “Her knowledge of Baroque repertoire is, apparently, limitless.”

As in past seasons, each program will receive four performances at locations around Southern California, but the Ventura County concerts are moving to the Scherr Forum in Thousand Oaks. The other venues — The Huntington in San Marino, Zipper Hall in downtown Los Angeles, and the Music Academy in Santa Barbara — remain the same.

The season opens Sept. 10–15 with a concert featuring five musicians, including violinist Paul Huang, pianist Irina Zahharenkova, and cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, who was the gold medal winner of the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition. The program includes a Beethoven trio, a Mozart piano sonata, and Edward Elgar’s Piano Quintet.

Camerata Pacifica Baroque makes its debut Oct. 17–22 with a concert titled “From Bach to Bolivia.” The program features five works by J.S. Bach, which will be interspersed with anonymous Bolivian chamber pieces from the same era.

Emi Ferguson | Credit: Tim Norris

More music from South America follows Nov. 7–12, when Zahharenkova and Ani Aznavoorian perform Alberto Ginastera’s Cello Sonata. They will be joined by Franch-Ballester for the Brahms Clarinet Trio.

Franch-Ballester returns Jan. 14–19, 2024, to perform more Brahms, the Clarinet Sonata No. 2. That program also features Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 and two contemporary works.

Sébastian Jacot, principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic, will be spotlighted Feb. 11–16, 2024, in music by Bach, André Jolivet, and Christopher Cerrone. The program March 10–15, 2024, marks the sesquicentennial of the birth of Arnold Schoenberg with the composer’s Transfigured Night, as well as the Brahms Piano Quintet. Ferguson and Camerata Pacifica Baroque return April 21–26, 2024, for a program of Jean-Philippe Rameau, Georg Philipp Telemann, and others.

The season finale, May 17–23, 2024, is entirely composed of new or recent music. Besides the premiere by Assad, the program includes the U.S. premiere of British composer Martin Butler’s Remember This Fire for oboe and percussion. Inspired by Ezra Pound’s poem “The Alchemist,” the work will feature Jung and oboist Nicholas Daniel.

Single tickets are $75 to $80; subscriptions begin at $300. For more information, go to the Camerata Pacifica’s website.