REVIEW: On opening night, SummerFest delivers passionate performances in an empty hall

The San Diego Union-Tribune
Christian Hertzog
August 22, 2020

La Jolla Music Society’s annual festival — slimmed down to six concerts — opens virtual series with excellent sound, crisp images and top-notch musicianship

“The show must go online.”

That updated show business adage appears to be the way of the classical music world these days.

On Friday night, the La Jolla Music Society — under the artistic direction of Inon Barnatan — offered its version of a COVID-19-safe production. SummerFest, now in its 35th year, opened its slimmed-down 2020 season with a YouTube broadcast of a pre-recorded performance of “The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives and a live performance of Schubert’s Quintet in C major inside an empty Baker-Baum Concert Hall at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

The sound was excellent, and the video appeared to be high-definition…


REVIEW: On opening night, SummerFest delivers passionate performances in an empty hall2020-08-22T18:06:33-07:00

PREVIEW: SummerFest forging ahead, with livestreamed concerts and unabated musical passion, despite pandemic

The San Diego Union-Tribune
George Varga
August 16, 2020

Embracing the transformational power of great art has long been the essence of SummerFest, the La Jolla Music Society’s 35-year-old chamber-music celebration. Now, SummerFest is set to embrace the power of music anew at the same time that the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically transformed the annual event itself.

How dramatically? Let us count the ways.

The 2020 edition of SummerFest has been reconfigured three times since being announced in March as a marathon event spanning 22 days and 18 concerts. It was postponed for a year in May, then revived in June as a “reimagined” six-concert festival that opens Friday at the La Jolla Music Society’s year-old, $82 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.


PREVIEW: SummerFest forging ahead, with livestreamed concerts and unabated musical passion, despite pandemic2020-08-17T10:07:03-07:00

ANNOUNCEMENT: For La Jolla Music Society’s Leah Rosenthal, new season is something to sing about

The San Diego Union-Tribune
George Varga
July 19, 2020

La Jolla Music Society Artistic Director Leah Rosenthal has virtually no fear when it comes to putting together eight-month concert seasons, even during a global pandemic, or negotiating increasingly complex performance contracts. And she doesn’t flinch when dealing with the concert hall-sized egos of some guest artists or as she ambitiously expands the creative and stylistic parameters of one of San Diego’s oldest and most respected arts organizations.

But singing in public?

That’s another story for this New Jersey native, who gave birth to her second child last fall and started laying the foundation nearly two years ago for the society’s upcoming 2020-21 concert season at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.

Never mind that Rosenthal, 40, earned a bachelor’s in vocal performance from Chicago’s Northeastern Illinois University in 2003. Never mind that she sang with opera companies in the Windy City, where she earned her master’s in Performing Arts Management at Columbia College five years later. And never mind that the weekly singing lessons she takes here every Saturday afternoon stretch back to 2008, when she was hired by the society as an artistic administrator.


ANNOUNCEMENT: For La Jolla Music Society’s Leah Rosenthal, new season is something to sing about2020-07-19T10:11:21-07:00

ARTICLE: SummerFest, in ‘re-imagined’ form, to have 6 concerts, not 18, and (maybe) a socially distanced audience

The San Diego Union-Tribune
George Varga
June 11, 2020

The 2020 edition of the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest was postponed in May until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the annual August festival will now take place in a smaller, “re-imagined” form.

This year’s edition of the 34-year-old chamber-music festival was originally scheduled to feature 18 concerts between July 31 and Aug. 21, all in the society’s $82 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, which opened last year.

The “re-imagined” SummerFest will feature six performances between Aug. 21 and 29 in the center’s Baker-Baum Concert Hall. An innovative Aug. 30 gala will be held at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, where the musicians will perform on the lawn and attendees will watch from the balconies of their hotel rooms, with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.

“I feel very strongly that music is a huge comfort to me and to anybody who loves music. As a service for musicians and audiences, I think it’s important not to take the easy way out and just cancel,” SummerFest Music Director Inon Barnatan said Wednesday afternoon from his home in New York City.


ARTICLE: SummerFest, in ‘re-imagined’ form, to have 6 concerts, not 18, and (maybe) a socially distanced audience2020-06-11T14:09:55-07:00

ANNOUNCEMENT: A note to the LJMS community regarding Systemic Racism and Injustice

LJMS joins our colleagues in the many arts and culture organizations all over the world that are acknowledging that we must speak up and oppose systemic racism and injustice. We stand with the Black community and with all people who desire a more equitable world.
It is both our mission and our priority to use music as a way of embracing people from all cultures and perspectives. We are using this time as a moment of reflection on how we can make our community a better, more loving and more inclusive space. We encourage all those who support us to do the same.
ANNOUNCEMENT: A note to the LJMS community regarding Systemic Racism and Injustice2020-06-08T08:38:45-07:00

Remembering Lynn Harrell, Acclaimed American Cellist

The New York Times
Anthony Tommasini
May 1, 2020

Lynn Harrell, a leading American cellist whose acclaimed playing, begun when he was 8 years old, combined robust sound, insightful musicianship and feeling for nuances, died on April 27 at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 76.

His death was announced on social media by his wife, Helen Nightengale, a violinist and former student. His death was sudden, she said by phone, perhaps caused by cardiac arrest.

In his 20s critics were already describing Mr. Harrell as a “gentle giant” of the cello, and both words applied. At 6 feet 4 inches tall and built like a linebacker, with long arms and enormous hands, he seemed to envelop the cello when he played it, producing burnished and penetrating sound easily. Yet he was also a sensitive interpreter and subtle colorist.


Remembering Lynn Harrell, Acclaimed American Cellist2020-05-06T08:53:33-07:00

ANNOUNCEMENT: A note to the LJMS Community regarding Covid-19

A Note to the LJMS Community Regarding COVID-19
Updated April 30, 2020

LJMS has cancelled all May 2020 performances. We eagerly await the day we can welcome all of you back to live performances from world class artists and, in that spirit, we continue to move forward with plans for SummerFest 2020.

Donating your tickets to May shows is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to help us continue fulfilling our mission and move toward reopening. This is an opportunity to turn your ticket purchase into an investment in the future of La Jolla Music Society. And, the value of your donated tickets will be matched by a group of generous donors.

We are grateful that so many patrons have chosen to donate their tickets to April performances and we invite you to join that group for May.

The best part is that you don’t need to do anything to donate your tickets. We will automatically convert your tickets to a donation in 30 days and your gift will be matched.

Exchanging your tickets for a future performance, like SummerFest, or for a refund is always an option available to you. Call our Box Office at 858.459.3728 to learn more.

Every generous ticket donation gets us one step closer to the time where we can all be together again at The Conrad. Until then we encourage you to visit our Digital Concert Hall  to relive some legendary performances.

See you soon and thank you for supporting LJMS! We will continue to update you as the situation evolves.

ANNOUNCEMENT: A note to the LJMS Community regarding Covid-192020-04-30T10:37:41-07:00

ARTICLE: La Jolla Music Society names Leah Rosenthal as its new artistic director

The San Diego Union-Tribune
George Varga
April 8, 2020

Leah Rosenthal has been named as the artistic director of La Jolla Music Society, where she is a proven veteran with more than a decade of achievements to her credit. She is the first person to be named as the organization’s artistic director who isn’t concurrently serving as its president or CEO.

Rosenthal was hired by the 51-year-old society in 2008 and became its director of artistic planning and education in 2011. She has served as its director of programming since 2016. She was instrumental in booking last year’s opening season at the nonprofit arts organization’s $82 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.

“Basically, in my new position, I’m doing a lot of what I’ve been doing the last couple of years. The change in title (reflects that) my role will now be more external and that I’ll have greater visibility in the community and play a greater role in fund-raising. I’m so honored,” Rosenthal said Wednesday, speaking from the North Park home she shares with her husband and two children.


ARTICLE: La Jolla Music Society names Leah Rosenthal as its new artistic director2020-04-09T09:34:53-07:00

ANNOUNCEMENT: LJMS’ Leah Rosenthal Named New Artistic Director

ANNOUNCEMENT: LJMS’ Leah Rosenthal Named New Artistic Director

La Jolla Music Society (LJMS) announced today that Leah Rosenthal has been named the organization’s new Artistic Director, effective April 1.

Rosenthal studied at Boston University before graduating from Northeastern Illinois University with a B.A. in Voice Performance. She later got her Masters of Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago. Before moving to San Diego, Leah was active in the Chicago arts scene, holding coveted positions with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, PBS, Ravinia Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, and The Recording Academy Chicago Chapter (GRAMMYs). Rosenthal began her tenure at La Jolla Music Society in 2008 as an Artistic Administrator and quickly moved up the ranks to Director of Artistic Planning & Education in 2011 before settling into the role of Director of Programming in 2016.

“I am so thrilled that Leah Rosenthal is officially at the artistic helm of LJMS. We owe a lot of the success and brilliance of the past seasons to her vision and taste, and she has been an indispensable partner to me with SummerFest. Congratulations to Leah and to LJMS. I look forward to many more years of artistic collaboration,” said Inon Barnatan, current SummerFest Music Director.

In her most recent position, Rosenthal was responsible for the curation and long range planning of La Jolla Music Society’s 40+ concert winter season, which includes a diverse range of programming from orchestras and chamber ensembles to dance and jazz. In collaboration with the SummerFest Music Director (Cho-Liang Lin 2008-2018 and Barnatan 2019- present), Rosenthal also programs and produces LJMS’ internationally recognized three week chamber music festival.

“It was always an invigorating process to discuss SummerFest ideas with Leah,” said Lin. “She was an indispensable part of the working process. I am very pleased by this appointment. It cannot go to a better or more deserving person.”

After over a decade with La Jolla Music Society, Rosenthal has a proven track record of programming innovative and compelling performers and educational activities for the organization. With the help of Education & Community Programming Manager Allison Boles, as well as Programming Manager Sarah Campbell, Rosenthal has created a department that is widely respected throughout both the performing arts and music education worlds.

“Leah has become a lynchpin of the North American presenting community. Her integrity, collaborative spirit and vision have not only enriched LJMS audiences, but helped us execute many of our most rewarding touring projects and special events. Opus 3 Artists congratulates Leah on this well-deserved promotion. She is a treasure!” said Robert Beretta, Vice President & Manager of Artists and Attractions at Opus 3 Artists.

Rosenthal is currently in the midst of finalizing details for this year’s SummerFest, as well as the 2020- 2021 winter season. “As Artistic Director, I look forward to the endless artistic possibilities that The Conrad provides, and to ensuring that LJMS continues to elevate and expand upon the world-class programming we are so well known for,” said Rosenthal. “My 12 years with LJMS has been a time of enormous personal growth for me. I have been fortunate to work with an exceptional staff, dedicated Board of Directors, unbelievably talented musicians and many personal mentors who have both inspired me and helped me hone my skills and grasp of the vast repertoire we are fortunate to present.”

ABOUT LA JOLLA MUSIC SOCIETY As one of Southern California’s leading presenters of premier performing arts, La Jolla Music Society contributes to San Diego’s cultural vitality year-round through a rich variety of presentations, including classical, jazz, contemporary music, and dance. In addition to robust educational programs and community outreach, La Jolla Music Society produces SummerFest, a three-week music festival featuring over 80 world-class artists and ensembles performing eclectic concerts. For more information, visit, or call 858.459.3728. ###

ANNOUNCEMENT: LJMS’ Leah Rosenthal Named New Artistic Director2020-04-05T19:15:35-07:00

ARTICLE: Stranded in San Diego, Spanish guitar star Pablo Sainz Villegas keeps playing

The San Diego Union-Tribune
George Varga
March 26, 2020

Because of the coronavirus, classical guitar star Pablo Sainz Villegas is stranded in La Jolla. That puts him almost 6,000 miles away from his wife, Valeria, at their home in Madrid, which — like all of Spain — is now under a nationwide lock-down.

His March concert tour of Germany has been canceled, along with his April tour of Japan. The May recording of his new album in Los Angeles is on hold. So is pretty much everything else on his schedule, although he is currently brainstorming ideas to take his duties as the La Jolla Music Society’s first education ambassador online.

Yet, while Villegas misses his wife, his parents — who live in the northern Spanish province of La Rioja — and the performances around the world that fuel his career, he also sees an unexpected opportunity the pandemic has provided.


ARTICLE: Stranded in San Diego, Spanish guitar star Pablo Sainz Villegas keeps playing2020-03-27T16:11:02-07:00