Review: Timo Andres’ Impressive Piano Trio at La Jolla SummerFest

San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 19, 2019

Composer David Lang returned to the La Jolla SummerFest stage Sunday, August 18, to introduce his second installment of fresh contemporary music for this year’s festival. Like Lang’s last Sunday presentation, The Conrad’s JAI theater was filled with a convivial crowd that responded enthusiastically to his four contrasting musical offerings.

Timo Andres’ Piano Trio, with the composer at the piano, made a strong impression. Composed last year, it is a substantial, tightly constructed three-movement contemporary incarnation of this traditional chamber music format that Andres has filled with potent musical ideas and sumptuous textures. In this work, Andres explores two highly contrasting approaches: (1) while the piano provides rippling but understated support, the strings craft austerely beguiling themes individually and together; (2) using dense, muscular chords, the piano boldly drives the ensemble with unabashed domination.


Review: Timo Andres’ Impressive Piano Trio at La Jolla SummerFest2019-08-21T15:41:59-07:00

ARTICLE: Conrad Prebys – a modern-day Razumovsky

San Diego Reader
Garrett Harris
August 16, 2019

I’m sure you remember the old “interrupting cow” knock-knock joke. Interrupting cow wh—? MOOOO!

That joke was on my mind during Miró Quartet’s all Beethoven concert on Saturday, August 11, at the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest.

I should probably explain. During the Beethoven String Quartet Op. 135, cellist Joshua Gindele became “the interrupting cello.” The joke was created by Beethoven and expertly told by Gindele.

Within the context of the music the clearly cello interrupts the line of the other instruments and goes in another direction. Gindele pulled this musical phrase off with an attack for the ages as a sly grin crept across his face, emphasizing the comedic quality of Beethoven’s music.

It might not sound like much but it is a moment I will never forget. Not only was it an insightful moment into the personality of Beethoven’s music, it was entertaining. That’s one word we could use more of in the concert hall.

It is instances such as this which make attending concerts a rich and rewarding activity.


ARTICLE: Conrad Prebys – a modern-day Razumovsky2019-08-27T10:34:54-07:00

REVIEW: Smart Contemporary Chamber Music at La Jolla SummerFest

San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 12, 2019

In his opening remarks to Sunday’s La Jolla SummerFest concert, composer David Lang explained that he chose the evening’s program to demonstrate how certain contemporary composers were showing their respect for music’s past. He gave us a helpful insight to Caroline Shaw’s 2011 work “Entre’acte,” noting that the composer set to work on this piece for string quartet after experiencing a quartet by Joseph Haydn.

As the Miró Quartet launched into this single movement work, it was easy to hear the echo of Haydn in Shaw’s lustrous harmony and voicing of the opening motif. The way that Shaw repeated and revoiced this phrase, however, was not at all like the way Haydn developed his musical ideas, and this was, of course, Shaw’s way to salute the past and yet make the piece her own. After some thematic deconstruction, she returned to her main theme, fashioning it with glistening harmonics or very soft pizzicatos. After a final statement of the theme bowed ardently at fortissimo volume, she had the solo cello pluck fragments of the theme as they slowly floated upward into total silence. Kudos to the Miró Quartet for giving this new piece its requisite vigorous articulation while maintaining the ensemble’s customary rich tonal palette.


REVIEW: Smart Contemporary Chamber Music at La Jolla SummerFest2019-08-12T16:12:41-07:00

ARTICLE: Inon Barnatan’s First SummerFest Effortlessly Mixes Classical and Avant-Garde

Times of San Diego
Barry Jagoda
August 12, 2019

Midway through La Jolla Music Society’s delightful SummerFest, brand new Music Director Inon Barnatan has shown that he will mix traditional classical chamber music—where his piano work is among the globe’s most outstanding—with his own style of innovation.

Concert patrons, including music lovers who may also want to take advantage of a slew of free events, have been enjoying continuing treats. There is an unforgettable focus on the compositions of Beethoven, whose 250th birthday is being celebrated. And, in what has been dubbed “Synergy,” part of an overall “Transformation” for Barnatan’s first year, there are numerous surprises.

In months of advance planning, Barnatan has had the help of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Trustee Clara Wu Tsai. They have brought in jazz and other artistic inspirations for special evenings. But there are also presentations of Beethoven string and piano trio highlights. This mixture of old and new has been greeted with standing ovations.

For instance, in an evening of popular song on Aug. 7, the very fine jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant was accompanied by another, also classically trained, jazz great, the pianist Aaron Diehl. Also at the piano for the entire production was Barnatan, showing how he is incorporating various art forms into SummerFest programs for this, his first year in charge. The evening’s performances received rousing standing ovations.


ARTICLE: Inon Barnatan’s First SummerFest Effortlessly Mixes Classical and Avant-Garde2019-08-27T10:23:55-07:00

ARTICLE: Miró Quartet lets its hair down

San Diego Reader
Garrett Harris
August 9, 2019

According to their website, “The Miró [String] Quartet took its name and its inspiration from the Spanish artist Joan Miró, whose Surrealist works — with subject matter drawn from the realm of memory, dreams, and imaginative fantasy — are some of the most groundbreaking, influential, and admired of the 20th century.”

The Miró is appearing for two concerts at the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest. Their concert on Saturday, August 10, is an all-Beethoven concert featuring an early, middle, and late string quartet. This concert is a part of the Summerfest Beethoven Complete String Quartets cycle which will conclude during the 2020 Summerfest. Their second concert features music by contemporary composers on Sunday, August 11. Both concerts are at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.

I was able to sit down and get to know the members of the quartet on Tuesday, August 6. You can hear the entire conversation here.

The first topic we discussed was the art of listening. Violist John Largess explained, “Often in our rehearsals we will discuss different ways of listening, or different parts—of the four—to make the leader or priority. It’s not always the tune. We end up discovering a lot about the music that way. We certainly don’t do it one way all the time. We play our pieces quite often. We’ll tour a piece over the season and play it tens of times. For us to discover it new on stage every time is great. So some of our more interesting experiences of listening happen during concerts when we let go of what we rehearsed and discover something spontaneous and new.”


ARTICLE: Miró Quartet lets its hair down2019-08-27T10:36:33-07:00

REVIEW: Encountering Jazz with Cécile McLorin Salvant at La Jolla SummerFest

San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 8, 2019

Can jazz and classical music co-habit congenially on the same stage? La Jolla SummerFest Music Director Inon Barnatan set out to answer that question in the affirmative in Wednesday’s (August 7) concert, the opening salvo in Barnatan’s new Synergy Series. Combining disciplines and art forms provides the mainspring to this series, and upcoming programs in the Synergy Series will feature music and painting as well as music and dance.

This first musical offering turned out to be more a showcase for the three artists on stage, singer Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianists Aaron Diehl and Barnatan. Winner of the 2010 Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition, McLorin Salvant’s laid-back vocal approach recalls the insinuating phrasing of Sarah Vaughan tempered with the breathy intimacy of Blossom Dearie. She wooed her audience at The Conrad with deft self-effacing humor as she introduced each number on the trio’s 90-minute set.

Barnatan quietly opened the program with his aptly understated account of Chopin’s familiar E Major Etude. As he cadenced the first section, McLorin Salvant and Diehl came in with the same music supplied with a text for the singer by Bob Russell and Paul Weston. Nothing new here, of course—Chopin has always made for an easy transition into the pop realm: “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” anyone?


REVIEW: Encountering Jazz with Cécile McLorin Salvant at La Jolla SummerFest2019-08-12T16:18:14-07:00

ARTICLE: La Jolla Music Society transforms and takes flight with SummerFest, Aug. 2-23

La Jolla Light 
Julian Willis
August 6, 2019

In April, LJMS — like a butterfly exiting a chrysalis — achieved a bold transformation, now on full display during SummerFest 2019, its annual celebration of chamber and classical music, which runs Aug. 2-23.

The most recognizable change is physical: LJMS’ new permanent home, the $82 million gleaming Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, designed by Epstein Joslin Architects at 7600 Fay Ave., just west of the The Lot movie theater complex. The Conrad, as it’s affectionately known, boasts the 513-seat Baker-Baum Concert Hall, a horseshoe-shaped venue reminiscent of a European Opera House.

Encircled by a wood grillage, which brings in slats of natural light, the Baker-Baum provides world-class acoustics, designed by Nagata Acoustics, a firm that was instrumental in the creation of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Kyoto Concert Hall in Tokyo, and the Philharmonie in Paris.


ARTICLE: La Jolla Music Society transforms and takes flight with SummerFest, Aug. 2-232019-08-12T16:23:22-07:00

REVIEW: At SummerFest, a new place and new faces add up to great news

San Diego Union Tribune
Christian Hertzog
August 5, 2019

La Jolla Music Society opens its annual SummerFest at its new home with a new music director, Inon Barnatan

Ever since losing access to Sherwood Auditorium in 2017, the La Jolla Music Society and its patrons have waited for the opening of the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center. The center was inaugurated in April but not without growing pains as performers tested how to engage the lustrous acoustics of Baker-Baum Concert Hall.

On Friday night at Baker-Baum, donors were thanked, speeches were made, and finally pianist Inon Barnatan emerged to introduce his first concert as the new music director of SummerFest. It opened with a collection of compositions spanning 300 years called “The Time Traveler’s Suite,” beginning with the first movement of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 2,” performed by a 12-piece ensemble with E-flat clarinet substituting for the trumpet part and a bass clarinet most uncharacteristically added to the continuo line.

To paraphrase Dorothy, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Sherwood anymore.”

For this listener, that’s great news. I marveled at the clarity of individual parts in Baker-Baum’s sparkling acoustics, the warmth of the strings, and a more subtle polish for the winds (without a pesky slap-back) than they ever received in Sherwood.


REVIEW: At SummerFest, a new place and new faces add up to great news2019-08-12T16:17:26-07:00

REVIEW: SummerFest’s Sublime Spiritual Journey

San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 5, 2019

The renewal of La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest is evident on several fronts. This 2019 season, which opened Friday, August 2, is now under the direction of the young pianist Inon Barnatan; the concerts are presented in the organization’s new Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in downtown La Jolla, and Barnatan’s programming projects a refreshing rejuvenation.

Saturday’s program, “Songs of Heaven and Earth,” clustered major sacred works by J.S. Bach, Olivier Messaien and Gustav Mahler, a combination of composers I cannot recall appearing together on a previous SummerFest program—and I have been attending since Heichiro Ohyama inaugurated the festival in 1986. Both the musical progression and the spiritual journey proved unusually compelling.

Opening with J. S. Bach’s solo cantata Ich habe genug, BWV 82a, we explored Bach’s depiction of the soul’s eager anticipation of heavenly bliss in the arms of the Savior. Moving on to “Louange à l’immortalité de Jésus” from Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, we were invited to share Messiaen’s mystical communication in the present with the transcendent Jesus, and in the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, we were privileged to observe the bliss of a heavenly pastorale as depicted in the song “Das himmlische Leben” from Das Knaben Wunderhorn.


REVIEW: SummerFest’s Sublime Spiritual Journey2019-08-12T16:18:44-07:00

REVIEW: SummerFest Boldly Mixes George Crumb and Maurice Ravel with Rachmaninoff on Sunday’s Program

San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 4, 2019

Sunday afternoon’s SummerFest concert at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center featured George Crumb’s rarely performed 1971 “Vox Balaenae” (“Voice of the Whale”) for amplified flute, cello and piano, and Maurice Ravel’s “Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé,” an equally obscure cycle of esoteric poetry for soprano and large chamber ensemble.

For Crumb’s austerely beautiful 30-minute aquatic tone poem “Vox Balaenae,” the composer adapted actual whale songs for the flutist and cellist to elaborate, creating mysterious serpentine themes accompanied by explosive piano clusters or eerily dampened glissandos plucked from the piano’s interior. SumerFest followed all of Crumb’s performance instructions: a darkened room restricted to only blue light over the performers; face masks for the performers, and projections of large sea animals slowly swimming in murky water projected on a screen behind the musicians. Such trendy 1970’s-era special effects might cause reflexive eye-rolling from some readers, but I will attest that the staging helped focus Crumb’s highly abstract structures.

San Diego Symphony Principal Flute Rose Lombardo adroitly took the lead in this piece; she was also required to simultaneously sing and play the flute much of the time to more closely simulate the whale sounds. Alisa Weilerstein handled the complex cello part with expected finesse, and she occasionally struck a few small bright bells when not bowing. Conrad Tao nimbly executed both the keyboard flashes and the interior manipulation of the piano’s strings.


REVIEW: SummerFest Boldly Mixes George Crumb and Maurice Ravel with Rachmaninoff on Sunday’s Program2019-08-12T16:19:07-07:00