Famed pianist Jerome Lowenthal, who has been on the Music Academy of the West faculty for 50 years, is paid tribute at tonight’s pianist-studded Opening Night Gala.
Music Academy of the West Opening Night Gala
When: Tonight, 5 p.m., cocktail reception, 6 p.m., performance, 7 p.m., dinner and encore
Where: Music Academy of the West Miraflores Campus, 1070 Fairway Rd. in Montecito
Cost: Starting at $500
Information: 969-8787, www.musicacademy.org
As the order of things has come to be expected, the eight-week summer pageantry that is the Music Academy of the West festival program opens in stages. In some ways, the grand opening in terms of its general public interface occurs with the first of many orchestra concerts at the Granada Theatre, starting on June 29. In terms of a literal kickoff concert, the Takacs String Quartet continues its tradition of performing on the first Monday night of the season, at Hahn Hall.
And from yet another, in-house perspective, it all starts tonight with a gala event which could hardly be called a “soft launch.” Two years ago, the Gala—a combination reception/concert/dinner/tribute—featured the world-laureled likes of pianists Yuja Wang and Jean Yves Thibaudet, timed with the Academy’s becoming an all-Steinway operation.
This year, the Gala spotlight turns again to the piano, and specifically a tribute to the great performer-mentor Jerome Lowenthal, celebrating his 50th year on the faculty of the Music Academy—some kind of record.
Mr. Lowenthal’s stellar legacy and role in the landscape of modern classical piano has found him teaching at Juilliard since 1991 and performing with prominent conductors and musicians (violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Nathaniel Rosen) and in pairings with pianists including Vassily Primakov and Ursula Oppens (also his life partner).
Fittingly, tonight’s musical menu includes short performances by several Academy alumni pianists Elizabeth Roe (’01), Evan Shinners (’09), and Orion Weiss (’00), as well as Ms. Oppens. Mr. Lowenthal himself will also part of the party.
Music Academy president/CEO Scott Reed explained that the Gala’s musical agenda was “curated by Jerry himself. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to honor a Music Academy and community icon.
Mr. Reed adds “we’re very grateful that Jerry has made Santa Barbara one of his musical homes and look forward to celebrating and honoring at the very special Gala concert and during his time here this summer. (His) 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.”
The Lowenthal tribute is the pre-festival opening to a season with such highlights as the first year of a partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra, a west coast premiere of composer Barbara Higdon’s opera “Cold Mountain,” and special “Mosher Guest Recitals” by soprano Isabelle Leonard, pianist Pierre Laurent-Aimard, flutist Claire Chase, and Edgar Meyer.
One disappointing piece of news for this summer’s program, just prior to its launch, is the cancellation of what would have been Michael Tilson Thomas’ debut appearance at the Music Academy. Mr. Tilson Thomas has cleared away his summer schedule to have a cardiac surgery, planning to be back at the podium in time for his 25th, and final season leading the San Francisco Symphony in the fall.
In Santa Barbara, MTT will be replaced by internationally notable substitutes: Daniel Harding leading the LSO at the Santa Barbara Bowl (on July 14); and composer-conductor Thomas Adès will lead the Academy Chamber Orchestra, with piano soloist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, at the Lobero on July 20.
For those of us for whom price is an object, Monday’s Takacs concert—with a program of Mozart, Grieg and Bartók–is one of the many events all summer, including the Bowl concert, with tickets starting at $10 (versus the fund-raising Gala, starting at $500).
As the Takacs quartet’s first violinist Edward Dusinberre told the News-Press, “some of our very happiest times are spent at the Music Academy. The full-time faculty here achieves an unusual mixture of informality and music making of the highest quality. As a result, we always find Santa Barbara a great place to recharge and be freshly inspired after the stresses and strains of touring during the regular season.”
Santa Barbara becomes a place to recharge for many high-profile musicians by summertime. For classical music aficionados, the Music Academy allows a powerful charging phenomenon in what would otherwise be a hibernation period.