Starry lineup also features Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Marin Alsop, Claire Chase, Jeremy Denk, Isabel Leonard, Jerome Lowenthal, Edgar Meyer, Matthias Pintscher, Takács Quartet, and more
The Music Academy of the West charts new territory at the 72nd annual Summer School and Festival (June 17–Aug 10). As part of its first transatlantic educational partnership, the Academy presents the historic festival debut of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), which travels to Santa Barbara for three programs under the leadership of LSO conductors Elim Chan and Michael Tilson Thomas. No less momentous is the Academy’s West Coast premiere of Cold Mountain, the award-winning first opera of Composer-in-Residence Jennifer Higdon, in an exclusive new production conducted by TED Fellow Daniela Candillari and directed by Music Academy Vocal Institute Creative Director James Darrah. Known for their high energy, this summer’s Academy Festival Orchestra concerts will be led by returning favorite Larry Rachleff; Marin Alsop, making her festival debut; Matthias Pintscher, showcasing his own composition; and Michael Tilson Thomas, leading the orchestra alongside the LSO in the annual Community Concert, which underscores the Academy’s ongoing commitment to community access. Other festival highlights include an Opening Night Gala to mark the Academy’s five-decade-long association with distinguished pianist Jerome Lowenthal, and recitals by pianist Jeremy Denk, the Takács Quartet, and a stellar quartet of 2019 Mosher Guest Artists: mezzo-soprano and 2005 alumna Isabel Leonard, flutist Claire Chase, double bassist Edgar Meyer, and pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. All told, 140 talented fellows and 77 outstanding faculty members will take part in 170 concerts, recitals, and masterclasses on the Academy’s picturesque Miraflores campus and throughout scenic Santa Barbara, California.
London Symphony Orchestra: festival debut
Last season saw the launch of Music Academy of the West’s new four-year partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), a world leader in innovation, management, and international presence. This summer, the orchestra makes its first trip to Santa Barbara for a residency promising exceptional performances and transformative training opportunities. Elim Chan, winner of the 2014 Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition, takes the podium for the LSO’s spaced-themed Voyager Family Concert at the historic Granada Theatre. Combining orchestral excerpts by Beethoven, Richard Strauss, Holst, Ives, Shostakovich, Messiaen, John Adams, and John Williams with audience participation and a specially created film, this multimedia event is designed to cultivate the next generation of music-lovers (July 12). At the same venue, Michael Tilson Thomas – Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, Conductor Laureate of the LSO, and Signature Festival Conductor of the Academy’s LSO partnership – conducts the LSO in his own jazzy Agnegram, Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Grammy Award-winner James Ehnes as soloist (July 13). For the orchestra’s final full-scale appearance, Thomas helms the annual Community Concert, at which the LSO plays side by side with the Academy Festival Orchestra at the Santa Barbara Bowl, where they bring the local community together for an uplifting program of Berlioz, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky (July 14). The residency also sees key LSO musicians take part in a chamber program of Takemitsu, Dohnányi, and Messiaen (July 9), and Thomas conducts both a vocal masterclass (July 17) and an Academy Chamber Orchestra performance (July 20; see Academy Chamber Orchestra below).
Opera and Song: West Coast premiere of Cold Mountain and more
More than 700 applicants seek the 27 coveted spots in the Academy’s Vocal Institute. As a result, “Music Academy of the West’s annual opera production has long been a reliable showcase for fine young vocalists” (Opera News). Presenting a cast of vocal fellows, this season’s offering is the West Coast premiere of Cold Mountain, the first opera by Composer-in-Residence and 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Higdon. An American odyssey of love, honor and redemption at the close of the Civil War, based on the National Book Award-winning novel by Charles Frazier, the opera was itself recognized with a 2016 International Opera Award. Directed by Princess Grace Award-winner James Darrah, Creative Director of the Vocal Institute, and featuring the Academy Festival Orchestra under the baton of Daniela Candillari, whose “wondrous music-making” (Chicago Tribune) has been showcased at Chicago Lyric Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and more, the Academy’s fully staged and costumed production takes place at the Granada Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara (Aug 2 & 4). To prepare to sing the opera’s leading roles, vocal fellows will receive coaching in a dedicated Vocal Masterclass (July 10) from mezzo-soprano and Mosher Guest Artist Isabel Leonard (’05) and tenor Jay Hunter Morris, who created the roles of Ada and Teague in Cold Mountain’s world premiere at Santa Fe Opera in 2015. The upcoming production will also be supplemented by a film screening (June 7) and three book club discussions hosted by the Santa Barbara Public Library (June 8; July 9 & 13).
There will be four further opportunities to hear the Academy’s 2019 vocal fellows and vocal piano fellows, who receive private instruction from esteemed voice coaches Margo Garrett, Martin Katz, Gerald Martin Moore, and Bill Schuman. The fellows perform personal favorites by way of an introduction at the Voice Program Opening Night (June 19). Next, James Darrah directs them in a new Shakespeare Salon (June 29 & July 1), featuring music inspired by the poet and his plays by composers ranging from Verdi to Bernstein, with musical direction from sisters Nino Sanikidze, head coach of LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, and Tamara Sanikidze, Director of the Butler Opera Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Vocal fellows also take part in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, with the Academy Chamber Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas (July 20; see Academy Festival Orchestra below), and in the annual Marilyn Horne Song Competition (Aug 9; see Competitions and showcases below).
Academy Festival Orchestra/Academy Chamber Orchestra concerts
The Academy Festival Orchestra’s concerts represent a highlight of the festival each year. Larry Rachleff, Professor of Orchestral Conducting at Rice University and “a take-charge maestro who invests everything he conducts with deep musical understanding” (Chicago Tribune), returns to launch the season, leading first Beethoven’s “Eroica” and Franck’s Symphonic Variations, with 2018 Concerto Competition-winning pianist Sylvia Jiang as soloist (June 22), and then a pairing of Ives’s “Decoration Day” with Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony, The Year 1905 (June 29). Composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher, Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, draws “Viennese Connections” between his own composition towards Osiris: Study for Orchestra and works by Zemlinsky and Brahms, as orchestrated by Schoenberg (July 6). Besides conducting the full orchestra side-by-side with the LSO at the annual Community Concert (see above), eleven-time Grammy Award-winner Michael Tilson Thomas helms the reduced forces of the Academy Chamber Orchestra in a program of John Cage’s The Seasons, Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, and Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto, with Mosher Guest Artist Pierre-Laurent Aimard as soloist (July 20; see Mosher Guest Artists below). To conclude the Academy Festival Orchestra series and indeed the entire eight-week festival, Marin Alsop, celebrated Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, takes the podium for Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, blue cathedral by Composer-in-Residence Jennifer Higdon, and Dvořák’s mighty Seventh Symphony (Aug 10).
Opening Night Gala and Jerome Lowenthal
The Music Academy of the West values its life-long relationships with great artists like pianist Jerome Lowenthal, whose distinguished career has included appearances with all America’s foremost orchestras and landmark recordings of Tchaikovsky’s concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra. Since joining the faculty in 1970, Lowenthal has returned to the Academy each summer, helping to create one of the world’s most significant festival programs for young solo pianists. The Academy’s annual benefit, the Opening Night Gala: “Honoring A Legend” (June 14), celebrates this shared history through musical tributes from alumni pianists Evan Shinners (’09) and Orion Weiss (’00) and guest pianist Ursula Oppens, joined by Lowenthal himself. The pianist will also be celebrated at this summer’s PianoFest (June 20; see Competitions and showcases below).
Mosher Guest Artists in Residence: Leonard, Chase, Meyer, and Aimard
Generous support from the Samuel B. and Margaret C. Mosher Foundation once again enables the Academy to host four world-class guest artists this year, in brief residences that combine performances, public masterclasses, and private lessons for fellows.
To launch the 2019 season, Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard (’05) sings selections by Valverde, Montsalvatge, Falla, Offenbach, and Bernstein, with the Academy’s Vocal Institute Director of Music John Churchwell at the piano (July 11). Leonard sings three leading roles at New York’s Metropolitan Opera this season, including her recent headlining triumph in the American premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie.
French pianist Pierre Laurent Aimard – “a brilliant musician and an extraordinary visionary” (Wall Street Journal) – gives a duo recital of works by Bartók, Ravel, Messiaen, and Harrison Birtwistle with his regular piano partner, Tamara Stefanovich (July 18). He also joins Michael Tilson Thomas and the Academy Chamber Orchestra for Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G (July 20), a work he has recorded to acclaim with Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra.
Composer, flutist, Harvard Professor, Avery Fisher Prize-winner, and MacArthur “genius” Claire Chase is “one of the prime movers in the music of our time” (New Yorker). Supported by an ensemble of Academy fellows, she performs PAN, an evening-length conceptual piece for solo flute, live electronics, and ensemble that was written for her by Brazilian-American composer Marcos Balter (July 25). The work is one Chase commissioned for Density 2036, her 23-year commissioning project to revitalize the flute literature, from which she performs additional selections in the Festival Artists Series (July 23).
Composer, double bassist, and MacArthur “genius” Edgar Meyer has been called “the most remarkable virtuoso in the relatively un-chronicled history of his instrument” (New Yorker). He completes the series with a solo program pairing Americana with classical works by Bach and himself (Aug 1). Chamber Music: Takács Quartet, Festival Artists, Faculty Artists, and Picnic Concerts
As in previous years, the summer season offers a wealth of chamber concerts. The first string quartet to be inducted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame, the Takács Quartet once again performs the opening-night recital, playing works by Haydn, Bartók, and Grieg (June 17), besides joining cellist David Geber for Schubert’s transcendent String Quintet in C in the Festival Artists Series (July 23). Presenting faculty, fellows, and guest artists in chamber concerts at the Lobero Theatre, the series is also highlighted by the world premiere of Sean Shepherd’s Saxophone Quintet (July 2) and accounts of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances (June 25), Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C minor (July 16), Brahms’s Piano Trio in B (July 30), and Jennifer Higdon’s Dark Wood (Aug 6).
Returning faculty artist Jeremy Denk, whose honors include a MacArthur Fellowship and the Avery Fisher Prize, gives a solo piano recital of Bach, Ligeti and more (July 3). Faculty artists also perform together in a series of sonata recitals, enabling fellows to hear the repertoire they are studying, as performed by their mentors. Featuring such star faculty members as Glenn Dicterow, former Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, and Alan Stepansky, former Principal Cellist of the Boston Pops, there will be group faculty recitals on June 27 and August 7. The Picnic Concert Series, named for the tradition of pre-concert picnicking on the Academy’s Miraflores grounds, presents Academy fellows in eclectic chamber recitals, programmed by the musicians themselves. These popular events are frequently attended by Compeers, community members who champion the fellows, with whom they often form life-long friendships (June 21 & 28; July 5, 19 & 26; Aug 8).
Competitions and showcases
One of the most popular events of the summer season, the Marilyn Horne Song Competition (Aug 9) is a showcase for Academy singers and vocal pianists, who compete for the Regina Roney Award, a cash prize and international recital tour. Chosen by a jury led by Honorary Voice Program Director Marilyn Horne (’53), past winners include John Osborn (’97), Susanna Phillips (’02, ’03), Isabel Leonard (’05), and Nadine Sierra (’07). This year’s jury also features Metropolitan Opera Musical Advisor Ken Noda and composer-in-residence Jennifer Higdon, who has been commissioned to write a work for the winners, to be premiered on an international tour next year. Likewise the Academy’s Solo Piano Finale (Aug 5) sees piano fellows compete for the Luria Foundation Award, a cash prize and international recital tour, which is presented in partnership with Steinway & Sons.
As in previous years, the fellows will be showcased throughout the summer in a series of special events. The eight solo piano fellows will be introduced in PianoFest, which celebrates the legacy of Jerome Lowenthal (June 20), percussion fellows and faculty will demonstrate their virtuosity on an array of instruments in PercussionFest (July 22), and participants in the String Quartet Seminar, a program conducted by the Takács Quartet, will unveil their new ensembles and share their work in the String Quartet Recital (July 26).
115 public masterclasses
The masterclass is one of the hallmarks of the Music Academy experience. All fellows participate in the Music Academy’s extensive masterclass program, which is designed to complement individual private instruction. Over the course of the eight-week festival, 115 public masterclasses will be presented by faculty and guest artists in voice, solo piano, and instrumental series. Among those leading vocal masterclasses are Marilyn Horne, James Darrah, Jay Hunter Morris, and Mosher guest artist Isabel Leonard. Solo piano masterclasses will be led by Jerome Lowenthal, Conor Hanick, Jeremy Denk, and Mosher guest artist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Other weekly instrumental masterclasses are presented by faculty and visiting artists, including flutists Timothy Day and Mosher Guest Artist Claire Chase; trumpeter Paul Merkelo; horn player Julie Landsman; collaborative pianist Jonathan Feldman; violinists Pamela Frank, Jorja Fleezanis, Kathleen Winkler, and Glenn Dicterow; violists Cynthia Phelps (’79,’83) and Richard O’Neill (’98, ’99); cellists David Geber and Alan Stepansky; double bassist and Mosher Guest Artist Edgar Meyer; percussionist Michael Werner (’90); and many more. All masterclasses are open to the public, offering a unique behind-the-scenes look at the musical teaching process at its most dynamic and intimate.
The Music Academy of the West’s fellows, faculty and guest artists perform at its scenic ocean-side campus and in venues throughout Santa Barbara, including the historic 1,500-seat Granada Theatre and the recently renovated 600-seat Lobero Theatre. Known as Miraflores, the Academy’s nine-acre campus was originally the estate of John Percival Jefferson. Its spectacular grounds and gardens create a serene place for visitors to stroll and relax before performances in the intimate Hahn Hall, which the Santa Barbara Independent calls an “ultra-luxurious jewel-box venue,” and the Los Angeles Times describes as the “centerpiece of the West Coast’s elite summer music academy, hidden away in a plush neighborhood of Montecito, a block from a glorious coastline. ... With 350 seats, it is perfect for chamber music and recitals. The acoustics are unobtrusive; nothing gets between music and the ear.” Additional campus venues include Lehmann Hall, named for founder Lotte Lehmann, and Weinman Hall, a performance space decorated in Andalusian style, for masterclasses.