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.

Photo: michael McFadden
Photo: Michael McFadden

In addition to the festival’s website, you can read about it here and here..

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.

1 thought on “Ojai”

  1. What a great report! I love Ojai; it is a unique place. Someone told me that it’s one of the two places on the planet where the mountains run east/west instead of north/south. The other place they said is Shangrila. This may be hearsay but Ojai is magic.

    I turned pages at your fabulous concert. The two of you were just breathtaking.

    Dr. Louise Earhart
    MTAC Board, Recording Secretary

    PS: I like your website and will revisit it again.


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