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Ojai Music Festival reveals details for 2010 program

November 11, 2009 |  1:12 pm

George-benjamin-F Hoffman La Roche Ltd Perhaps the most important new music event on the West Coast, if not the entire U.S., the Ojai Music Festival is a necessary pilgrimage for any fan of contemporary classical music -- and anyone with the slightest curiosity about the latest trends in composing.

The festival, held in June in the Ventura County town, provides something of a summer retreat for musicians, composers and critics. It's also a who's who of the new music scene, a prestigious event that draws the best and the brightest of the contemporary music scene.

For this summer's festival, which will be held June 10-13, organizers said today that the focus will be on composer George Benjamin, who is also serving (not coincidentally) as the festival's music director.The festival typically revolves around the works of its music director, who changes each year.

Organizers also announced that the new music group Ensemble Modern will make its West Coast premiere at the festival in a series of four programs.

Benjamin will conduct some of this own work as well as pieces by Oliver Knussen, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti and more.

Among the works by Benjamin scheduled for the festival will be the West Coast premiere of "Into the Little Hill," a chamber opera to be presented in a concert version; "Three Miniatures for Violin" and "Viola Viola."

In addition, the festival will include pieces by Frank Zappa, the interdisciplinary rock and classical composer.

Last June's festival was directed by the ensemble eighth blackbird.

"The festival is really all about an experience," said Jeff Haydon, executive director of the festival. He said annual ticket sales range between 7,000 and 8,000.

Haydon added that the festival will be renting out a movie theater for a silent-movie screening during which Benjamin will improvise a soundtrack.

Here's the lineup for the festival so far -- more events are expected to be announced in February.

Thursday, June 10, 8 p.m.
Members of the Ensemble Modern
George Benjamin, conductor (Schoenberg)
Hilary Summers, mezzo (Potter)

Saed Haddad:  Le Contredésir
George Benjamin:  Three Miniatures for Violin
Steve Potter:  Paradigms (excerpts)  U.S. premiere
Schoenberg:  Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 16 (chamber version), arranged by Greissle
Strauss:  Emperor Waltzes, arranged by Schoenberg       

Friday, June 11, 8 p.m.
Ensemble Modern
Brad Lubman, conductor

Varèse:  Density 21.5                              
Varèse: Octandre                              
Zappa:  Selections from "Greggery Peccary" 
Zappa:  Selections from "The Yellow Shark"   

Saturday, June 12, 11 a.m.
Eric Huebner, piano

Messiaen: Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jèsus

Saturday, June 12, 8 p.m.
Ensemble Modern
George Benjamin, conductor
Anu Komsi, soprano
Hilary Summers, contralto

Stravinsky:  L’Histoire du Soldat Suite              
George Benjamin:  "Into the Little Hill," West Coast premiere                

Sunday, June 13, 11 a.m.
Wildcat Viols
Indian raga ensemble, tba

Indian Ragas
Purcell:  Fantazias for viols

Sunday, June 13, 5:30 p.m.
Ensemble Modern
George Benjamin, conductor
Anu Komsi, soprano (Knussen)
Ueli Wiget, piano (Messiaen)
Dietmar Wiesner, flute (Boulez)

Pierre Boulez:  Memoriale                      
George Benjamin:  Viola, Viola               
Oliver Knussen:  Songs for Sue               
Benjamin:  At First Light               
Ligeti:  Chamber Concerto               
Messiaen:  Oiseaux exotiques               
All concerts are held at the Libbey Bowl.

-- David Ng

Photo: Composer George Benjamin. Credit: Ojai Music Festival

Comments () | Archives (3)

Great contemporary music group at Ojai; quite impressed with the Ensemble Modern's series of RCA recordings.

Regretably with Ensemble Modern's recorded history of music by Steve Reich, there are no compositions composed by Reich for the current 2010 program (he has been well represented during the past two festivals).

Ensemble Modern's recording of Reich's Music for 18 Musicians is stellar; enjoyed the Eighth Blackbird performance of this work at this past June's festival.

Any recommendations as to music by George Benjamin for an introduction to some of his compositions?

I was surprised to notice the LA new music cartel (i.e., Stucky, Salonen, Adams) are not in at the Ojai festival - or maybe the artistic director George Benjamin has brains and ears of his own.

How can this be a necessary pilgrimage for any fan of contemporary music if the programming of the festival left the major mafiosos out??

Initial Reaction - Disappointing.

This year's Ojai was absolutely the best as a focused new music festival with almost no dinosaurs or bones thrown to the conservative crowd. It was full of innovation and energy.

A quick perusal of this program appears more conservative and less adventurous. If this listener never heard Stravinsky's Soldat again there would be no regrets - dull story and music. The predominance of Messian, Schoenberg, Varese, etc. all make this a program dominated by long dead composers. Benjamin himself would be labeled safe and familiar even if you do not know him.

I am sure the reliable OJAI crowd will show and I hope as this year they use the theater next door to fill the weekend with surprising events that cover the mornings and late night. Ojai 2009 was very special. Perhaps it was a leap too far for the little town. At least there is no Baroque next year.


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