The Ojai Music Festival Promises a Dynamic Lineup

For the past 7 decades, the Ojai Music Festival has been a staple for celebrating classical music. Each year, a music director is given the freedom and resources to imagine four days of musical brainstorming. Some have approached their task with caution, fearing that Ojai might be like other places. But, of course, it’s not. More often this unique blend of enchanted setting and an audience voracious in its appetite for challenge and discovery has inspired a distinguished series of conductors, performers, composers to push at boundaries and stretch limits.

People are often surprised that I love classical music. While some of my favorite memories are arena concerts like Green Day and the Smashing Pumpkins, I’m equally as excited to attend a night out with the symphony. I had such a fabulous time in Ojai last year that I’m thrilled to head out to the Ojai Music Festival for my first time next weekend.

The Ojai Music Festival 2018

The Ojai Music Festival presents Music Director Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s unbounded musical creativity in the context of today’s social and political climate. Areas of Ojai, Ventura, and Santa Barbara continue to replenish from the devastation of the Thomas Fire. The Topa Topa Mountains surrounding the Ojai Valley have already given rise to new growth, and the Festival honors this renewal with new works, debuts, and free community concerts.

“When I first met Patricia, I knew she was a natural to be Music Director of the Festival. She is, quite simply, a force of nature. Her unstoppable energy, blazing virtuosity, and relentless curiosity are irresistible. The 2018 Festival will showcase her wildly diverse artistic talents as a violinist, a collaborator, a director, an advocate, and as a creative force. Patricia sees music in the context of today’s social and political issues, so the 2018 Festival is one that will surely offer confrontation, questioning, and healing. The 2018 Festival aims to capture Patricia’s infectious energy and virtuosity,” said Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris.

New to the Festival this Year

The 2018 Ojai Music Festival welcomes the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) in its first extended United States residency. Founded in 1997, the Berlin-based MCO defines itself as a free and international ensemble, dedicated to creating and sharing exceptional experiences in classical music. With members spanning 20 different countries, the MCO works as a nomadic collec-tive of passionate musicians uniting for specific projects in Europe and across the world. The MCO forms the basis of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and maintains long and fruitful artistic relationships with major artists, including Ms. Kopatchinskaja and Mitsuko Uchida, Ojai’s 2021 Music Director. In Ojai, MCO will display its versatility and virtuosity as an orchestral ensemble, in smaller chamber iterations, and also in superb solo performances from individual members.

The JACK Quartet also makes its Ojai debut at the 2018 Festival. Deemed “superheroes of the new music world” (Boston Globe), JACK is dedicated to the performance, commissioning, and spread of new string quartet music. Comprising violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Jay Campbell, the group collaborates with composers of our day, including John Luther Adams, Chaya Czernowin, Simon Steen-Andersen, Caroline Shaw, Helmut Lachenmann, Steve Reich, Matthias Pintscher, and John Zorn. At the 2018 Festival, JACK will perform works by Georg Frederick Haas, Horatio Radulescu, Morton Feldman, George Crumb, and John Luther Adams.

Concerts Not to Miss

Major projects will include two semi-staged concerts conceived and directed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja. The first, which opens the Festival on Thursday night, is Bye Bye Beethoven. Ms. Kopatchinskaja describes the concert as a commentary on “the irrelevance of the classic concert routine for our present life.” This program features a mash-up of music by Charles Ives, John Cage, Joseph Haydn, György Kurtág, Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Beethoven Violin Concerto. This marks the US premiere of Bye Bye Beethoven, which was premiered at the Hamburg International Music Festival and subsequently staged in Berlin. This production marked the fourth collaboration between Ms. Kopatchinskaja and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Bye Bye Beethoven involves musicians in both conventional and unconventional roles, encounters with different musical genres and discourse among sound, space and imagery.

The second semi-staged concert conceived and directed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja is a provocative commentary on the consequences of global warming. Titled Dies Irae, the program is an aesthetic reflection of a time rife with global warming, wars over resources, and refugee crises. Musical selections include Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, George Crumb, Michael Hersch, Byzantine chant, and Galina Ustvolskaya’s remarkable Dies irae for eight double basses, piano, and wooden box. The evening performance on Saturday, June 9 marks its American premiere.

See You Next Weekend?

A limited amount of tickets and passes remain for the Ojai Music Festival. Visit them HERE and plan on a fantastic weekend in the charming city of Ojai next week! xo

(*Disclosure: I am attending this event on behalf of this review. All opinions are my own.)

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