Summer musical bounty call
This year’s Music Academy of the West festival program, released Thursday, features the London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, the West Coast premiere of the contemporary opera “Cold Mountain,” and much more over the summer.
Music Academy of the West
Where: Music Academy of the West Miraflores Campus, Granada Theatre, Lobero Theatre and other venues, June 10 through Aug. 10.
Information: 969-8787, www.musicacademy.org
One of the most internationally important cultural entities calling Santa Barbara home, the Music Academy of the West means various things to various people. For the 140 student Fellows, chosen from a prime, international crop of young musicians and hosted in the summer program without charge, the Music Academy is a prized summer program.
And for classical music fans — both diehards, neophytes and the idly curious — the Music Academy’s world-class concert and masterclass program turns each summer into a rich cultural parade. Regular symphony concerts at the Granada Theatre, chamber music at the Lobero Theatre, and a steady flow of concerts in the enlightened ambience of Hahn Hall on the Music Academy’s Montecito-based Miraflores campus, provide an embarrassment of serious musical riches in town during what would normally be a dormant summer downtime.
Just officially announced Thursday, the 2019 Music Academy program — in its 72nd annual edition — arrives boldly, and with some sparkling news and new features.
A short list of highlights includes the inaugural appearance of an ongoing new relationship with the great conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, soon retiring from his long, accoladed post at the head of the San Francisco Symphony (with Esa-Pekka Salonen assuming his role).
For the Academy’s annual staged opera event in early August, normally relying on trusty and sometimes musty standard operatic repertoire, the spotlight turns to contemporary work in the form of Jennifer Higdon’s opera version of the novel-turned-film “Cold Mountain.”
The opera and vocal factors of the Academy have bumped up considerably under the guidance of mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne’s leadership as director of the voice program for many years.
In other music worldly news, the London Symphony Orchestra opens its own new partnership with the Music Academy, following in the footsteps of a similar arrangement with the New York Philharmonic for a few years. That association climaxed with the N.Y. Phil performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for a record crowd at La Playa Stadium in 2017, crowning the institution’s grand 70th anniversary year.
One important milestone event celebrated on this summer’s calendar is its Opening Gala event on June 14, honoring a 50-year liaison with the famed veteran pianist-faculty member Jerome Lowenthal.
As Academy president and CEO Scott Reed explains, “Jerome Lowenthal’s five-decade presence here in Santa Barbara has been extraordinary, not just for the solo pianists, but also for the faculty, fellows and audiences. His illumination of and passion for music has inspired hundreds of great performances.
“Creating a legacy is something that takes a lifetime of dedication and sacrifice. We’re very grateful that Jerry has made Santa Barbara one of his musical homes and look forward to celebrating and honoring that.”
The event will include performances by the great Ursula Oppens (also Mr. Lowenthal’s wife) and, fittingly, Music Academy piano alums Elizabeth Roe (’01), Evan Shinners (’09), and Orion Weiss (’00).
This summer’s critical connections with the LSO and MTT (Mr. Thomas’ acronym nickname) are significant in many ways, and further proof of the Music Academy’s expanding reputation on the global scene. The orchestra will give three concerts — a family concert, a Granada concert and, continuing the tradition (hopefully) of concerts at the Santa Barbara Bowl, a performance in tandem with the Academy Festival Orchestra in a “Community Concert” (aka affordable and inclusive) Bowl, conducted by MTT.
Gregg Gleasner, a new interim member of the Academy administration after the departure of former artistic director Patrick Posey, with a strong role in programming, comments that “This partnership marks a significant moment our organization’s history. Michael Tilson Thomas has had a long-term relationship with the LSO, as Principal Conductor from 1988-1995 and now as Conductor Laureate.
“He will be our Signature Festival Conductor of that partnership and engage with our fellows in additional activities as well as conducting the LSO in Santa Barbara, marking the first time he has conducted our Academy Festival Orchestra. His participation in our program highlights his international influence in our industry, his roots in California, and his extraordinary commitment to education. These qualities align with the Music Academy’s mission and priorities, and we are delighted to have such a legendary figure with us for a two-week residency.”
Mr. Reed notes that the partnership will extend but also differ from what the New York Phil brought to town.
“Every orchestra brings unique qualities to a partnership,” says Mr. Reed. “LSO’s commitment to education, commercial endeavors, extraordinary music making, and active investment in new music and artists provides our fellows and our community with incredible opportunities. This is the first international partnership for the Music Academy and the LSO’s first transatlantic educational partnership.”
Other high points of the 2019 schedule are another strong round of well-known recitalists in the Mosher Guest Artist series at Hahn Hall, with flutist and contemporary music sparkplug Claire Chase, pianist Pierre Laurent-Aimard (both of whom have played roles in recent Ojai Music Festival programs), double bassist Edgar Meyer, and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard.
Conductors for the Saturday night Academy Festival Orchestra concerts include regular Larry Rachleff, the mighty MTT, Marin Alsop and a return visit from noted Austrian conductor-composer Matthias Pintscher, presenting a “Viennese Connections” program, including his own piece “Towards Osiris: Study for Orchestra.”
Mr. Reed emphasized that the institution is steadily evolving, and including more community-based and year-round programs, such as the elementary school-inclusive “Sing!” program.
“We’ve been adding new administrators and guest artists and faculty to complement our team and help us with our growth and expansion. We can’t do any of this without the unparalleled support from our community. Our board, donors, volunteers keep us visionary and goal-oriented at all times.
“Together we aspire to create transformative experiences for our fellows and community.”
Mr. Reed emphasized that the institution is steadily evolving, and including more community-based and year-round programs, such as the ‘Sing!” program.
“We’ve been adding new administrators and guest artists and faculty to complement our team and help us with our growth and expansion. We can’t do any of this without the unparalleled support from our community. Our board, donors, and volunteers keep us visionary and goal-oriented at all times. Together we aspire to create transformative experiences for our fellows and community.”