The music of summer, alfresco and elsewhere
Summer in the city, for the classical music crowd, means getting out of the city. Or at least getting out of doors — namely to the Hollywood Bowl. And for the first time in the 33 years since Zubin Mehta departed, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has a music director enthusiastic about the Bowl.
It was there that Gustavo Dudamel made his U.S. debut, there that he chose to begin his tenure as music director of the L.A. Philharmonic with a free concert two years ago for the city. This summer, he will be in residence for five concerts during the orchestra’s first two Bowl weeks in July. For the first program, Lang Lang joins Dudamel in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, a pairing certain to give the video camera operators a workout trying to catch all the action. But the Bowl night not to miss will be Dudamel’s concert performance of Puccini’s last opera, “Turandot,” starring the thrilling soprano Christine Brewer.
Beyond the Bowl, the horizon beckons. California has become, in recent years, a significant summer music festival state. San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festival begins the season with a two-piano recital of Mozart and Liszt by Misha and Cipa Dichter on June 7.
Then the celebrated Ojai Music Festival, this year under the artistic direction of soprano Dawn Upshaw, gets underway with the world premiere of Peter Sellars’ staging of “Winds of Destiny,” the fourth volume of George Crumb’s “American Songbook.”
For the first time, selections from the Ojai Festival, including the Crumb, will be repeated the following week at UC Berkeley, as part of Cal Performances. And it will have plenty of June competition across the bay, where San Francisco Opera will present three complete “Ring” cycles in the company’s new productions of the epic four Wagner operas by the American director Francesca Zambello. Next door, Michael Tilson Thomas’ San Francisco Symphony offers its own annual June festival, which will culminate in a performance of Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis.”
In July and August, the place to be will be the Monterey Bay and its environs. The Carmel Bach Festival is now under the musical direction of the noted British early music specialist Paul Goodwin. Marin Alsop, music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, means business. Of the 20 works she will conduct over two weekends, 17 of them will be world or West Coast premieres.
Chamber music is a popular summer pastime. SummerFest, in La Jolla, and Music@Menlo, around Silicon Valley, fill their rosters with big names. The Music Academy of the West, in Santa Barbara, is where the next generation of players are to be found.
Meanwhile, Philip Glass mixes standard repertory chamber music with his works and invited guests in his new Days and Nights Festival in Carmel Valley and Big Sur. It begins with concerts by the Glass Chamber Players and ends with the Philip Glass Ensemble in a two-evening retrospective of you know whom. There will also be movie nights, including two films scored by Glass that will be shown at a drive-in, with the soundtrack broadcast over your car stereo.
For more Glass on film, the composer will drop in at the Bowl to oversee the premiere of a newly orchestrated version of his soundtrack to “Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation.” For it, the L.A. Philharmonic will accompany a really big-screen showing of Godfrey Reggio’s mesmerizing, poetic documentary about the conflict of technology and tradition in the Third World.
-- Mark Swed
Photos, from top: Dudamel conducts at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times
Marin Alsop, the music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Credit: Grant Leighton.