Thomas W. Morris, artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival and this year’s music director Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the internationally celebrated pianist recently named Instrumentalist-of-the-Year by Musical America, announce complete details of the 61st Ojai Music Festival. The Festival takes place from June 7 to 10, 2007 and is representative of Ojai’s provocative spirit that for the past 60 years has been stretching the boundaries of musical adventure and innovation. All artists will be making their Ojai debuts, with the exception of Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams who appeared in the 2005 Festival.
This year’s Festival focuses on Pierre-Laurent Aimard as pianist, collaborator, conductor and innovator. The key artistic elements of the Festival build upon Mr. Aimard’s advocacy of the music of Ligeti, Stravinsky, Carter, Bartók and Eötvös; Mr. Aimard’s relationship with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, of which he is one of the artistic partners; and the interaction of pianos and percussion. Mr. Aimard describes the Festival as “a mixture of la douce folie and structure: a sense of freedom and fun in performances by supremely skilled musicians in engaging and compelling repertoire in intellectually stimulating combinations.” Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös, in residence for the Festival, was with Mr. Aimard a member of Ensemble InterContemporain, the groundbreaking, Paris-based, contemporary music ensemble founded by Pierre Boulez, a seven-time music director of the Ojai Festival. The four Eötvös works to be performed during the Festival include two American premieres—Sonata per Sei for two pianos, one electric piano, and three percussionists, on June 8, and Chinese Opera performed by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the resident orchestra of this year’s Festival, on June 9. This concert, conducted by Douglas Boyd, who is also an artistic partner of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, also includes a rare performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in an unusual arrangement for 15 players. This concentrated version was originally conceived by Arnold Schoenberg and completed by Rainer Riehn. The singers will be mezzo-soprano Monica Groop and tenor Vinson Cole.
A duo-piano recital by Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams, avid proponents of contemporary music, opens the Ojai Music Festival on June 7 with a Concert-in-the-Round in the Libbey Bowl highlighted by Stravinsky’s two-piano versions of his Septet and Concerto in E-flat “Dumbarton Oaks.” The second half of the concert will feature two unusual works by Peter Eötvös beginning with Cricketmusic, a piece perfectly suited to the natural outdoor setting of the Festival. This will be followed by Kosmos for two spatially placed pianos. The concert closes with works by Ligeti including his stunning Three Pieces for Two Pianos and a rare performance of Počme symphonique written for 100 metronomes.
Mr. Aimard performs a piano recital on Saturday morning June 9 in a program juxtaposing the old and new and providing a glimpse at Mr. Aimard’s wide-ranging musical curiosity, which includes Schumann’s Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133, four selections from J.S. Bach’s Art of the Fugue, and two recent Elliott Carter piano pieces—Intermittences and Caténaires. Mr. Aimard premiered Carter’s Caténaires, which was written as a present for him, on December 11, 2006 in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall on the occasion of the composer’s 98th birthday. Composed as a companion piece for Intermittences - written in 2005 and premiered by Peter Serkin at Zankel Hall – the Ojai performances will be the first of the works performed together. The program will close with one of the landmarks of American music, Charles Ives’ Piano Sonata No. 2 “Concord.”
The NEXUS percussion ensemble, the acclaimed troupe that has pushed percussion to the forefront of contemporary music in the 20th and 21st centuries with its impressive list of commissions and collaborations, is featured in two percussion-focused concerts. The first on June 8 highlights music for pianos and percussion, opening with Bartók’s famed Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion with Mr. Aimard, Tamara Stefanovich, and NEXUS percussionists, followed by a companion piece for the Bartók written by Peter Eötvös, Sonata per Sei, for three pianists and three percussionists. The composer will conduct his work, which is receiving its American premiere. The concert closes with one of the great masterworks of the 20th century, Stravinsky’s Les Noces, featuring four pianists (Mr. Aimard, Ms. Stefanovich, Ms. Bugallo and Ms. Williams), all five members of NEXUS and guest percussionist Jan Williams, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and soprano Susan Narucki, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Roderer; tenor John Aler, and bass Kevin Short. Peter Eötvös, a long time proponent of Les Noces who has recorded it in two of its versions, will conduct.
On the morning of June 10, NEXUS will present an all-percussion concert comprising Ancient Military Aires; Tongues, NEXUS’ interpretation of a traditional Zimbabwean melody featuring the mbira, or thumb piano; Kobina, a synthesis of a recreational dance performed by the people of Ghana; works by Steve Reich, Linda Catlin Smith, and two members of NEXUS—Bill Cahn and Russell Hartenberger; and a rags medley arranged by Bob Becker for four players on two marimbas accompanying a solo xylophonist.
The 2007 Ojai Festival closes on June 10 with a concert by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra of four piano concertos from the classical to contemporary periods--Mozart’s Piano Concerto, K. 246 with Mr. Aimard conducting from the keyboard, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G and Ligeti’s Piano Concerto with Mr. Aimard as piano soloist and conducted by Douglas Boyd, and Carter’s Dialogues for Piano and Large Ensemble featuring pianist Tamara Stefanovich with Mr. Aimard conducting.
All concerts take place at the Libbey Bowl, an outdoor area surrounded by lush greenery, where Ojai Festival-goers have experienced performances by legendary artists of their time since the Festival’s founding in 1947.
The Festival Symposium is scheduled for Friday, June 8, at the Presbyterian Church located at 304 North Foothill Road. The first session takes place at 12:30 p.m. and features Ojai music director Pierre-Laurent Aimard in conversation between Ara Guzelimian, the dean designate of The Juilliard School and artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival from 1992 to 1997. This session will close with a conversation between Mr. Guzelimian and duo-pianists Helena Bugallo and Amy Williams. The second session, which starts at 2:15 p.m., features a showing of the 2006 documentary film “The Seventh Door,” a revealing look at Mr. Eötvös and his influences, including his collaborations with Stockhausen and Boulez, his cosmological theories behind “Kosmos” and his interpretation of “the seventh door,” a reference to Bartók’s opera, Bluebeard’s Castle. The film will be followed by a discussion between Mr. Eötvös and Ara Guzelimian.
The 2007 Festival features two free events: On Saturday, June 9, members of NEXUS will demonstrate interactive improvisation with audience participation at the Ojai Center for the Arts at 3 p.m. Following that evening’s concert, the Ojai Playhouse will host a showing of “A Page of Madness,” the classic 1926 silent film by Teinosuke Kinugasa, with music arranged by NEXUS percussionist William Cahn performed live by NEXUS.
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Pictures and information were provided by Ojai Festival
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