Last weekend I played Concertmaster and some chamber music at the Ojai Festival in CA. It’s probably the most unique festival I’ve ever been to, combining a beautiful but rustic setting with top-notch concerts, a fanatic and extremely literate audience, and truly eclectic (even bizarre) repertory.
Some of my personal highlights:
– Dawn Upshaw’s incredible talent, featured both in a recital with the fabulous Gil Kalish on piano (outdoors at 11 am on Saturday, and completely packed) along with the Pergolesi Stabat Mater.
– a program of works by Elliott Carter for cello and piano, which was scheduled for Saturday at 1.00 pm and quickly filled up (the tickets were free, but I still found that amazing). So they repeated it at 3 and it was full again. Only in Ojai.
– Our performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which started at 11pm after the crazy program we played at 8pm. Absolutely packed again, despite the hour.
– A conversation with Alex Ross in which he tried to convince me that Prokoviev originally wrote a happy ending for Romeo and Juliet. Of course it turns out he’s right, and that sort of thing is why I’m a regular reader of The Rest is Noise , one of the best cultural blogs out there even before the book.
– A performance of Steve Reich’s incredible Tehillum with members of Nexus, the esteemed percussion ensemble who’s worked with Reich for decades (Reich was the composer-in-residence at Ojai this year). I enjoyed playing the piece very much, and also experienced another “first” for me when I noticed one of the singer-soloists actually wore flip-flops for the concert. Not sandals, but actual Wal-Mart plastic Britney-grade flip-flops onstage. This is one of the most famous new-music festivals in the country, and has been run for decades by people like Stravinsky and Boulez; we got a soloist who evidently came straight from the trailer park.
– Quite an impressive display by Music Director David Robertson, who somehow kept his head on and his hands straight through the whole thing.
I felt very privileged to participate. This was an amazing crowd, truly compelling programming, and some astonishing performances. Next year Eighth Blackbird will host, so get there if you can.