At 75, the Ojai Music Pageant Stays Centered on the Future

OJAI, Calif. — Returning is a course of. Hardly ever is it linear.

The Ojai Music Pageant, as an illustration, returned, Sept. 16-19, to have a good time its seventy fifth yr after an extended pandemic absence. However there have been setbacks among the many comebacks. Compromises had been made to accommodate its transfer from spring to the ultimate days of summer time. An artist was held up in Spain by journey restrictions. Diligently enforced security measures barely harshed the vibe of this storied occasion, a rigorous but enjoyable haven for up to date music tucked in an idyllic valley of straight-faced mysticism and candy Pixie tangerines.

This version of the competition is the first underneath the management of Ara Guzelimian, again on the helm after a run within the Nineteen Nineties. Annually, the particular person in his place organizes the programming with a brand new music director; for Guzelimian’s debut, he selected the composer John Adams, the paterfamilias of American classical music, who occurs to have been born the yr of the primary competition. Tired of a retrospective for the milestone anniversary, they billed their live shows as a forward-looking survey of younger artists — becoming for a competition that has lengthy targeted on the longer term.

However in music, previous, current and future are all the time informing each other. Bach and Beethoven haunted new and up to date works; the pianist Vikingur Olafsson handled Mozart, as he likes to say, as if the ink had simply dried on the rating. There isn’t a trying ahead with out trying again.

Guzelimian and Adams regarded again about far as doable in weaving the valley’s Indigenous historical past into the competition. The duvet of its program guide was the Cindy Pitou Burton {photograph} “Ghost Poppy” — the flower’s identify given by the Chumash individuals, the primary recognized inhabitants of this space, who after the arrival of Europeans had been practically annihilated by illness and violence, and who now not have any land in Ojai.

It’s a historical past that was shared, amongst extra lighthearted tales, by the Chumash elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, who opened Friday’s programming with storytelling on a misty discipline at Soule Park; that night, she started a live performance with a blessing.

Regardless of the most effective of intentions, these had been among the many extra cringe-worthy moments of the competition. The predominantly white, moneyed viewers responded to particulars of colonial brutality with an obliviously affirmative hum, not in contrast to the best way it later cheered on Rhiannon Giddens’s “Construct a Home,” a searing and sweeping indictment of American historical past — as if these listeners weren’t implicated in its message.

The competition was at its finest when the music spoke for itself. (Many of the live shows are streaming on-line.) It ought to be mentioned, although, that the programming nonetheless had its limits; simply as this evaluation can’t probably handle all the occasion, Ojai’s three days (and a quick prelude the night earlier than) represented solely a sliver of the sector, and excluded a few of the thornier, extra experimental work being completed.

Adams was nonetheless , it appeared, in artists who function as if liberated from orthodoxy and style — removed from what he has referred to as “the unhealthy previous days” of modernism’s grip.

Past the composers, that translated to the performers, a roster that included the competition orchestra (no mere pickup group with the good violinist Alexi Kenney as its concertmaster); members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group; and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. And soloists just like the violinist — for one piece, additionally a violist — Miranda Cuckson, who summoned the drive of a full ensemble in Anthony Cheung’s “Character Research” and Dai Fujikura’s “Prism Spectra,” and nimbly adopted Bach’s Second Partita with Kaija Saariaho’s “Frises” rather than the partita’s well-known Chaconne finale.

Olafsson, whose recordings have demonstrated his brilliance as a programmer — with a pointy ear for connections inside a single composer’s physique of labor, or throughout centuries and genres — persuasively moderated a dialog amongst Rameau, Debussy and Philip Glass, in addition to one other of Mozart and his contemporaries, with masterly voicing and enlightening readability.

Giddens was additionally comfy in a variety of types, her polymathic musicality and chameleonic voice deployed as affectingly in an Adams aria as in American people. Performing along with her personal band (whose members embrace Francesco Turrisi, her companion) she was deadpan and charismatic; alongside the Attacca Quartet, she merely sat at a microphone with a laser-focus stare, commanding the stage with solely her sound.

Attacca’s look was all too temporary, however may justify their very own flip at directing the competition in the future. Whether or not in works by Adams, Jessie Montgomery or Caroline Shaw, in Paul Wiancko’s vividly episodic “Benkei’s Standing Dying” or Gabriella Smith’s jam-like “Carrot Revolution,” these open-eared and open-minded gamers don’t appear to carry a bit to the stage till it’s etched into their bones, so absolutely is every rating embodied.

There was overlap of composer and performer in Timo Andres, whose works had been nicely represented however who additionally served because the soloist — twinkling, affected person and tender — in Ingram Marshall’s humbly beautiful piano concerto “Movement.”

Andres later gave a cold Sunday morning recital that opened with picks from “I Nonetheless Play,” a set of miniatures written for Robert Hurwitz, the longtime and influential chief of Nonesuch Data. It continued with one among Samuel Adams’s Impromptus, a piece of impressed keyboard writing designed to enhance Schubert, with flashes of that composer together with heat and delicate harmonic shading to match. And it ended with the primary dwell efficiency of Smith’s “Imaginary Pancake,” which had a decent debut on-line early within the pandemic however really roared in particular person.

In very Ojai vogue, there have been so many residing composers programmed that Esa-Pekka Salonen didn’t even qualify as a headliner. If something, he was a recognized amount that unintentionally pale amid the novelty of different voices. Carlos Simon’s propulsive and galvanizing “Destiny Now Conquers” nodded to Beethoven, however on his personal brazen phrases. And there continues to be nothing however promise within the rising Inti Figgis-Vizueta, whose “To offer you kind and breath,” for 3 percussionists, slyly warped time in a juxtaposition of resonant and uninteresting sounds of discovered objects like wooden and planters.

A lot actual property was given to Gabriela Ortiz, who along with being carried out — offering a blissfully rousing climax for the competition with an expanded model of her “La calaca” on Sunday night — stepped in as a curator when a recital by Anna Margules was canceled as a result of she couldn’t journey to the USA. That live performance, a survey of Mexican composers, provided one of many competition’s nice delights: the percussionist Lynn Vartan in Javier Álvarez’s “Temazcal,” a piece for maracas and electronics that calls for dance-like supply in a revelation of acoustic prospects from an instrument most individuals deal with as a mere toy.

Ortiz’s chamber works revealed a present for astonishing acoustic pairings, comparable to two harps and a metal plan in “Río de las Mariposas,” which opened a late morning live performance on Sunday. It’s a sound that had a sibling in a premiere that ended that program: Dylan Mattingly’s “Sunt Lacrimae Rerum,” its title taken from the “Aeneid.”

The work can also be for 2 harps (Emily Levin and Julie Smith Phillips) — but in addition two pianos that, microtonally detuned, may at instances be confused with a sound of metal pan. There’s a slight dissonance, however not an disagreeable one; the impact is extra just like the distortion of reminiscence. And there was nothing disagreeable about this cry for pleasure. Ecstasy emanated from the open pianos, performed by Joanne Pearce Martin and Vicki Ray, as they had been calmly hammered at their uppermost registers, joined by music-box twinkling within the harps.

The temper turned extra meditative within the comparatively subdued center part, however the transporting thrill of the opening returned on the finish: first in fragments, then full drive. “Sunt Lacrimae Rerum” was the latest work on the competition, a bit that regarded again on a yr that was traumatic for all of us. However Mattingly met the second with music that teemed with defiant, unflappable hope for the longer term.

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