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SummerFest preview: La Jolla Music Society to present ‘Transformation’ series with music, dance and art from Aug. 2-23

Award-winning pianist Inon Barnatan, SummerFest’s new music director, will be performing in several of the concerts, beginning with Opening Night Aug. 2, 2019.
Award-winning pianist Inon Barnatan, SummerFest’s new music director, will be performing in several of the concerts, beginning with Opening Night Aug. 2, 2019.
(Photo by Marco Borggreve)

La Jolla Music Society has a lot going on this season, and its SummerFest — an annual event since 1986 — has a new music director, Inon Barnatan, who is infusing the popular festival with energy and excitement. Appropriately called “Transformation,” this year’s Fest, featuring three weeks of events from Aug. 2-23, 2019 is the first to be based in The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, the Music Society’s impressive new home in The Village of La Jolla at 7600 Fay Ave.

Barnatan, an award-winning pianist who recently completed three seasons as the New York Philharmonic’s artist-in-association, has been called by the music director there “a complete artist: a wonderful pianist, a probing intellect, passionately committed.”

In “Transformation,” he’s addressing questions such as: How do composers transform other composers’ music? How do art forms transform one another? So, this SummerFest will be a multimedia affair, including a Synergy series that combines classical music, jazz, dance, visual art and the many talents of visionary theater and opera director/designer Doug Fitch.

And Pulitzer Prize-winning composer (and Bang on a Can Collective co-founder) David Lang will guest-curate, taking over The Conrad’s alternative performance space, The JAI, with a pair of events that show how inventive contemporary music can be inspired by the classics and how an intimate setting can have you listening with fresh ears.

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There will also be performances of nine of Beethoven’s 16 string quartets — the other seven to be performed next summer — and a grand finale celebrating the Concerto Grosso, from its baroque beginnings to modern re-visionings. And these are just some of the delights awaiting SummerFest audiences.

“When I sat down to program this season, I tried to program the kind of events I wouldn’t want to miss,” Barnatan said. “I hope everyone here feels the same.”

The acclaimed Mark Morris Dance Group will premiere a new work on Aug. 21, 2019 during La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest.

The acclaimed Mark Morris Dance Group will premiere a new work on Aug. 21, 2019 during La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest.

(Photo by Erin Baiano)

Added Leah Rosenthal, director of programming, who has been with LJMS for 11 years: “The most exciting thing about this year’s SummerFest is that we’re making the whole space at The Conrad come alive. You can walk in and go up to the terrace to see visual art and video pieces; you can go into The JAI and watch live painting or hop into the Atkinson Room and see animated short films; or you can mingle with other audience members in the courtyard. And though there’s so much that’s new this year, those pillars that make SummerFest so beloved are still here. Inon is pushing boundaries, but he’s also honoring those who have come before him.”

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There are a number of free events, too, including open rehearsals.

IF YOU GO: La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest runs Aug. 2-23, 2019 at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. For the full schedule and tickets, call the box office at (858) 459-3728 or visit ljms.org

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A Quartet of 2019 SummerFest Highlights:

Opening Night: Time Traveler’s Suite, 8 p.m. Aug. 2 — A journey through 300 years of musical excerpts followed by the premiere of a new piece by acclaimed young pianist-composer Conrad Tao and Rachmaninoff’s ‘Suite for Two Pianos,’ played by Tao and Barnatan. Prelude at 7 p.m.: An interview with Inon Barnatan.

Synergy Series II: Music at an Exhibition, 7 p.m. Aug. 15 — The Conrad transforms into an immersive festival within a festival with an array of musicians, video artists and creative techies joining forces. Highlights include Doug Fitch’s staging of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ with puppets, live video and Inon Barnatan at the piano.

Takeover at the JAI, Music from Music II: 7 p.m. Aug. 18 — A selection of new pieces of music inspired by classical masterworks, along with visual surprises. Bites and beverages available. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Synergy Series III: In Step with Mark Morris Dance Group, 8 p.m. Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 — See the celebrated troupe perform, accompanied by top-flight musicians, and the premiere of a new work by its artistic director and choreographer, set to music by Handel. Free classes with the dancers are already full, but a free movement class Aug. 22 for those with Parkinson’s Disease is still available. For more details, call the box office, (858) 459-3728.

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