‘Reimagined’ SummerFest announces 6 concerts for August

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein performs with SummerFest Music Director Inon Barnatan.
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein performs with SummerFest Music Director Inon Barnatan at the La Jolla Music Society’s gala in 2019. Both musicians will be featured in a truncated version of this year’s SummerFest in August.

La Jolla Music Society festival, truncated because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be held Aug. 21-29, with plans for socially distanced audiences.


A smaller, “reimagined” form of the La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest will feature six performances between Aug. 21 and 29.

The 2020 edition of the 34-year-old chamber music festival was originally scheduled to feature 18 concerts between July 31 and Aug. 21, all in the society’s $82 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, which opened last year.

But organizers announced in May that most of the festival’s programming would be moved to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The six August performances are scheduled for the Conrad center’s Baker-Baum Concert Hall. An Aug. 30 gala is set for The Lodge at Torrey Pines, where musicians will perform on the lawn and spectators will watch from the balconies of their hotel rooms.

“I feel very strongly that music is a huge comfort to me and to anybody who loves music. As a service for musicians and audiences, I think it’s important not to take the easy way out and just cancel,” SummerFest Music Director Inon Barnatan said.

Each of the six concerts will last an hour, without intermission. Each will be livestreamed. And each — if county and state health regulations in August allow — will take place in front of a socially distanced audience in the 500-seat concert hall. Guests will be seated six feet apart “in every direction,” according to a La Jolla Music Society representative.

All guests and staff will be required to wear masks throughout the venue. Clearly marked one-way entrances and exits will provide audiences with a socially distanced path in and out of the hall. Following every performance, The Conrad will undergo a thorough cleaning.

Only seven musicians will perform, including Barnatan and cello star Alisa Weilerstein, rather than the several dozen originally scheduled for this year’s SummerFest.

“Chamber music thrives on intimacy. So at this moment, intimacy is something we can use to our advantage,” Barnatan said. “Whether there are 100 people in our concert hall, a few or if we are just playing for people listening from home on their headphones, there’s an intimacy and directness to it that is very special. We’re not offering a watered-down version of SummerFest, we’re trying to reimagine what intimacy looks like now.”

All the pieces scheduled to be played — except for Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question,” which will kick off the Aug. 21 opening concert — have been newly selected by Barnatan. His tenure as the head of SummerFest began with last year’s edition.

SummerFest season subscribers will have first priority to obtain tickets for the August concerts, should they take place with reduced attendance. Tickets for the livestream performances are priced at $10 per concert and will go on sale July 1 at and (858) 459-3728.

SummerFest 2020 concerts

Friday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m.: Ives, “The Unanswered Question,” performed by James Ehnes and Tessa Lark, violin; Yura Lee, viola; Clive Greensmith and Alisa Weilerstein, cello

Schubert, “String Quintet in C Major, D.956,” performed by Ehnes and Lark, violin; Lee, viola; Greensmith and Weilerstein, cello

Saturday, Aug. 22, 7 p.m.: Beethoven, “Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 36,” performed by Inon Barnatan, piano; Lark, violin; Greensmith, cello

Rachmaninoff, “Symphonic Dances, Opus 45,” performed by Barnatan, piano

Sunday, Aug. 23, 3 p.m.: Beethoven, “Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major, Opus 69,” performed by Weilerstein, cello; Barnatan, piano

Mendelssohn, “Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Opus 49,” performed by Lee, violin; Weilerstein, cello; Barnatan, piano

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 7 p.m.: Faure, “Violin Sonata No. 1, Opus 13,” performed by Ehnes, violin; Barnatan, piano

Schumann, “Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, Opus 47,” performed by Lark, violin; Lee, viola; Greensmith, cello; Barnatan, piano

Friday, Aug. 28, 7 p.m.: Mozart, “Violin Sonata No. 21 in E Minor, K. 304,” performed by Lark violin, Barnatan, piano

Kodaly, “Sonata for Solo Cello, Opus 8,” performed by Weilerstein, cello

Suk, “Piano Quartet in A Minor, Opus 1,” performed by Ehnes, violin; Lee, viola; Greensmith, cello; Barnatan, piano

Saturday, Aug. 29, 7 p.m.: Bach, selections from two-part inventions (arranged for violin and double bass), performed by Lark, violin; Michael Thurber, bass

Prokofiev, “Sonata for Two Violins in C Major, Opus 56,” performed by Ehnes, Lee, violin

Schubert, “Piano Quintet in A Major, D. 667, Opus 114 ‘Trout,’” performed by Barnatan, piano; Ehnes, violin; Lee, viola; Weilerstein, cello; Thurber, bass

Sunday, Aug. 30, time to be announced: SummerFest gala, The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Program to be determined, performed by Lark, violin; Thurber, double bass; Barnatan, piano; and others.

La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.