‘Under the Influence’: La Jolla Music Society expands SummerFest to four weeks and 21 events
The festival will run July 29 through Aug. 26 at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.
SummerFest, La Jolla Music Society’s annual chamber music celebration, will be bigger than ever in 2022 — literally.
For the first time in the event’s 36-year history, SummerFest will expand from three weeks to four. The series, to be held July 29 to Aug. 26, will feature a record 21 events, up from last year’s 16. They will be presented thematically as “Under the Influence,” a name chosen to denote creations, people and events that influenced some of classical music’s most renowned composers.
The lineup includes celebrated artists such as pianist Joyce Yang, clarinetist Anthony McGill, the Miró Quartet and the 19-piece chamber orchestra the Knights. Also to be showcased is 39-year-old violinist and singer Caroline Shaw, who at 30 became the youngest artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for music composition.
In addition, the lineup includes Grammy Award-winning singer Cecile McLorin Salvant. She will do the first stand-alone jazz concert in SummerFest history and will team with countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo for a performance of classic songs by German composer Kurt Weill.
This SummerFest also will introduce no-intermission Wednesday afternoon concerts, which will be followed by food and wine offerings — themed to that day’s concert — in the courtyard of the Music Society’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.
“The idea is that you’re really joining us for a festival that is festive, a party,” said SummerFest music director Inon Barnatan.
The increase in size, duration and scope is by design as part of the nonprofit Music Society’s five-year strategic growth plan. But the goal of the event’s expansion is to make it more leisurely, not more hectic, with the festival going dark on Monday and Tuesday nights.
“This way, there will be more space around the concerts,” Barnatan said.
“Instead of having five main concerts per week, we now will have four main concerts on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. This way, there will be less fatigue for everybody. It will be more relaxed.”
More non-classical concerts
Leah Rosenthal, the society’s artistic director, helped formulate the strategic growth plan that led to SummerFest’s expansion this year. The plan was originally scheduled to run through 2025 but has been extended a year because of the 2020 shutdown of live events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Going from three weeks to four will not only give our patrons an opportunity to breathe a bit between performances, it will also give our artists more of a chance to enjoy their time here and to better integrate with the community,” Rosenthal said. “And we can better expand our musical offerings this way.”
Indeed, the Aug. 17 jazz concert by the classically trained Salvant is a preview of things to come, according to Todd Schultz, the Music Society’s president and chief executive.
“Part of our growth plan is to have one or two jazz or non-classical concerts at each future edition of SummerFest,” Schultz said.
“The event’s core will solidly remain chamber music, with a focus on Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Elgar and other bedrock composers. But we’ll also feature composers whose work you wouldn’t expect to find in a chamber music festival, programming that really reflects Inon’s interest in being more adventurous and creative.”
The theme of this year’s SummerFest, “Under the Influence,” explores events, places and individuals that inspired the composers whose music will be performed. Such places will be reflected in concerts including “Shakespeare’s World” on Aug. 3 and “A Weekend in Paris” Aug. 5-7.
“As a consumer of music, I want the concert experience to be — as much as possible — a complete one,” said Barnatan, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist. “I think about ‘What experience does the audience have before, during and after the concert?’
“That is why we are introducing the intermissionless Wednesday afternoon concerts, followed by food and drink in the courtyard, so that you can have a whole experience that is both musical and non-musical. That said, the contents are more important than the theme.
“I don’t think we’ll be having Elizabethan foods for the ‘Shakespeare’s World’ concert,” Barnatan said with a chuckle.
‘A Weekend in Paris’
Last year, while planning the 2022 edition of SummerFest, Barnatan contemplated including a concert or two that would salute France’s Nadia Boulanger. The famed music composition teacher, based in Paris, counted Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones and Brazil’s Egberto Gismonti among her most notable students.
Though the Boulanger tribute did not coalesce for this year’s SummerFest, it inspired Barnatan to create the three-part “A Weekend in Paris” series, which will run Aug. 5-7. It will feature music by composers who were based in the French capital or spent pivotal times in their careers there, including Debussy, Chopin, Ravel, Messiaen, Schumann and Lili Boulanger, Nadia’s younger sister.
“I am so excited about the ‘A Weekend in Paris’ series,” Barnatan said. “I started off with it being a single concert, but I could do a whole festival with this theme. So, I had to at least do a weekend devoted to Paris. There are so many fantastic stories surrounding the city, whether it’s the conservatory — where so many great musicians studied and were nurtured — or the salons that held concerts and commissioned great works.”
Barnatan also is enthused about SummerFest’s Aug. 14 concert, “The Wagner Effect.” It will examine the impact of 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner in a program featuring his music and works by Strauss, Berg, Liszt and Dohnányi.
“That concert is a product of my fascination, which is shared by others, with the effect Wagner’s music and personality had on other composers,” Barnatan said. “Wagner’s [1865 opera] ‘Tristan und Isolde’ changed music and changed harmony and steered it to different directions. The concert will be a deep dive into the world of harmonic possibilities.”
The 2022 edition of SummerFest is the fourth since Barnatan came on board as music director in 2019. That was the same year the society’s $82 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center opened in La Jolla.
If all goes according to the society’s five-year plan, SummerFest could expand to five weeks by 2026. The number of non-classical concerts would rise as well, with the addition of more jazz, cabaret and world music artists.
“It’s a great way to engage with new audiences and with a slightly different demographic than SummerFest usually attracts,” Rosenthal said. “And by drawing them in during a chamber music festival, maybe we can help them explore music they aren’t as familiar with. It’s really important for us to continue to grow and create new content.”
Unless otherwise indicated, all concerts are at 7:30 p.m. at the Baker-Baum Concert Hall in the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, 7600 Fay Ave., La Jolla. Some events will be in The JAI, the center’s smaller 144-seat space.
July 29: “Side By Side,” featuring music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Chopin/Franchomme, Brahms, Bacewicz and Czerny
July 30: “Point Counterpoint,” featuring music by Valentini, Haydn, Reich, Mozart and Elgar
July 31: “Baroque by the Beach,” featuring music by Falconieri, J.S. Bach, CPE Bach, Biber and Vivaldi, 3 p.m.
Aug. 3: “Under the Influence: Shakespeare’s World,” featuring music by Korngold and Beethoven, 7 p.m.
Aug. 5: “A Weekend in Paris: The Salon and the Masquerade,” featuring music by Debussy, Chopin, Caplet, Ravel and Sarasate
Aug. 6: “A Weekend in Paris: Le Conservatoire,” featuring music by Debussy, Boulanger, Franck, Messiaen and Fauré
Aug. 7: " Weekend in Paris: Beg, Borrow and Steal,” featuring music by Couperin, Milhaud, Saint-Saëns, Schumann and Ravel, 3 p.m.
Aug. 10: “Under the Influence: Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons,’” 7 p.m.
Aug. 12: “The New Romantics,” featuring music by Hamelin and Dvořák
Aug. 13: SummerFest Gala
Aug. 14: “The Wagner Effect,” featuring music by Wagner, Strauss, Berg, Liszt and Dohnányi, 3 p.m.
Aug. 17: “Under the Influence,” featuring the Cecile McLorin Salvant Quintet, 7 p.m.
Aug. 18: Kurt Weill tribute, featuring Cecile McLorin Salvant and Anthony Roth Costanzo
Aug. 20: “The Planets,” featuring the Knights and Dance Heginbotham, 6 and 8 p.m., The JAI
Aug. 21: “The Planets,” featuring the Knights and Dance Heginbotham, 3 and 5 p.m., The JAI
Aug. 24: “Under the Influence” — Miró Quartet performs Shaw and Mendelssohn, 7 p.m.
Aug. 24: “Takeover @ The JAI,” featuring Caroline Shaw, 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 25: “New Wine, Old Bottles,” featuring music by Francaix, Chris Rogerson and Brahms
Aug. 26: “Metamorphosis,” featuring music by Strauss and Schubert
Subscription packages: SummerFest subscriptions are available now. The Windansea Series — which includes all 15 concerts in the Baker-Baum Concert Hall — is priced at $1,120 or $1,289, depending on seat location. Any concert at The JAI can be added to Windansea for 8 percent off the price of a single ticket. Partial subscription series and compose-your-own packages will be available later in the spring.
Single tickets: On sale April 29 for $45 to $110
Information: (858) 459-3728, ljms.org ◆
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