Inon Barnatan – “a true poet of the keyboard, refined, searching [and] unfailingly communicative” (London’s Evening Standard) – takes up his post this summer as the new Music Director of the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, an annual chamber music festival at which he has been a favorite performer since his first appearance there in 2012. Entering its 34th season as Barnatan’s tenure begins, the festival (Aug 2-23), also celebrates the opening of a new primary venue: the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, a/k/a The Conrad. As part of his programming in La Jolla, Barnatan presents his own “Synergy” concert series, in which he collaborates with such luminaries as Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Cecile Mclorin Salvant, visionary director and visual artist Doug Fitch, and the Mark Morris Dance Group, making its festival debut with a program featuring the world premiere of a newly choreographed piece. The summer lineup also includes Composer-in-Residence David Lang, clarinetist and conductor Osmo Vänskä, the Brentano String Quartet, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and a host of other world-class artists. A season brochure with complete artists and listings for the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest can be found here. Additional summer highlights for Barnatan include appearances at Tanglewood, the Spoleto Festival, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival.
Barnatan takes over the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest as only the fourth Music Director in the event’s history, following the 18-year tenure of Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin. As the pianist told the San Diego Union-Tribune: “Chamber music has always been in some ways central to me. Whether I was playing with orchestras, playing solo or with smaller ensembles, it’s always been the basis of my ideas about music – collaboration that involves listening, interaction and curiosity. And, for me, this basically brings all of these things together.”
Under Barnatan’s curation, the upcoming season reveals connections between different musical genres and artistic disciplines as it explores the theme of transformation, in particular the organic process of evolution by which new artistic ideas can be achieved by building and expanding on older ones. In addition to the three-concert “Synergy” series, produced in collaboration with Clara Wu Tsai and emphasizing cross-genre collaborations, Barnatan also plays in five other concerts during the August festival. Performed by an outstanding roster of chamber musicians, each program exemplifies the ever-intriguing musical journeys that have become the pianist’s trademark in his own performances.
“One of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times), Barnatan also looks forward to a busy schedule of performances in summer festivals around the U.S., many of which showcase his interpretations of the Classical repertoire. Following a spring tour of the U.S. playing Mozart with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the pianist continues his exploration of the Classical master’s concertos with two performances of Concerto No. 23, first at Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival under the baton of Carlos Kalmar (Jun 19), and then at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Nicholas McGegan (Sep 5). He also joins pianist Jonathan Biss for a performance of Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat in the last La Jolla SummerFest concert: “Finale: Concerto Grosso.” Beethoven also figures prominently in Barnatan’s summer lineup, with a performance of his Piano Trio in D at the Spoleto Festival, and both the “Archduke” Piano Trio and the E-flat Piano Quartet at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. And after a season in which he performed all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos with various orchestras in the U.S. and Europe, Barnatan performs the Fourth Concerto this summer with the Boston Symphony led by composer and conductor Thomas Adès (Aug 11). When he played the Third Concerto for his Baltimore Symphony debut under Vasily Petrenko in 2016, the Washington Post declared that the “brilliant” performance “surpassed all expectations,” and “the poignant solos brought tears to the eyes because they were so tenderly wrought.”
Thomas Adès makes one more appearance in Barnatan’s summer schedule, this time as a composer. In Beverly Hills, at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, the pianist plays a recital that juxtaposes music from Baroque suites by Bach, Handel, Rameau and Couperin with more recent pieces inspired by that era and form, including Adès’s Blanca Variations and music by Ligeti, Barber, Brahms, and Ravel.
This past season saw Barnatan tour to Amsterdam, London, and four stops in the U.S. with his longstanding collaborator, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, joined by Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan and Scottish percussionist Colin Currie, with a program they reprise this summer at the Aspen Music Festival (July 25). Titled “Transfigured Night,” it centers on Schoenberg’s early and atmospheric piece Verklärte Nacht, which will be heard in Edward Steuermann’s piano trio setting. Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio, Rolf Wallin’s solo marimba piece Realismos mágicos, and a trio and percussion version of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 are also on the program. The arranger for the Shostakovich is famed Russian pianist and pedagogue Victor Derevianko, one of Barnatan’s earliest teachers, and Barnatan, Weilerstein and Khachatryan, along with percussion ensemble red fish blue fish, will reprise that arrangement in August as part of the La Jolla SummerFest lineup. Also in Aspen, Barnatan gives a rendition of the virtuosic Barber Concerto – of which his performance last spring with the Cincinnati Symphony was called “eye-opening” and “earth-shaking” by the Cincinnati Business Courier – with the Aspen Chamber Symphony led by Alondra de la Parra (July 26).