Ojai Music Festival: A short drive to musical adventure

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Music Director Kent Nagano will conduct the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra at the 58th Ojai Music Festival, June 3-6.

The 58th Ojai Music Festival does not have a theme this year. However, the program is geared to creating “an atmosphere of adventure and stimulation.” To that end, an eclectic stew of old and new, familiar and unfamiliar will be presented by a variety of orchestral groups, large and small. The 2004 festival marks the first season under the artistic direction of Thomas W. Morris, who resigned last February as executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Six concerts are scheduled during the four-day weekend, from June 3 to June 6, all taking place at the outdoor amphitheatre, Libbey Bowl. Kent Nagano will be making his fourth appearance, conducting the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, of which he is the music director. Among the highlights will be a new performing edition of Johannes Ockeghem’s “Missa Ecco ancilla domini,” an appearance by Cleveland’s baroque orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, and a recital by pianist Till Fellner.

The Thursday concert at 8 p.m. will feature pianist Mitsuko Uchida performing works by Webern, Schoenberg and Schubert. This program also includes the Ockeghem mass.

The Friday evening concert, at 8 p.m., is titled “Opera in Concert” and will feature the Ojai Festival Orchestra playing Carl Orff’s rarely performed “Die Kluge.” The singers will be from the Resident Artists Program of the Los Angeles Opera. The program will open with a piece called “Double Trouble” by composer Kurt Rohde, who will play the viola along with Ellen Rose.

Two talks in the morning will honor the 100th birthday of Lawrence Morton, who served as artistic director of the music festival from 1954 to 1987.

A family concert featuring Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, UC Berkeley, will take place on June 5 at 10 a.m. A piece called “Bytes and Pieces: An Interactive Electronic Adventure,” combines traditional instruments with electronics.

The same day at 3 p.m., pianist Till Fellner will perform works by Bach, Messiaen, Mozart and Beethoven. Later that evening, at 8 p.m., Apollo’s Fire will present Bach’s “St. John Passion” (in English) under the direction of Jeannette Sorrell. The same group will also be featured on June 6 at 11 a.m., performing “Scarborough Fayre: A Tour of Renaissance Fairs from Shakespeare’s England to the New World.”

The closing concert on June 6 at 5:30 p.m. will have Kent Nagano on the podium conducting the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. The program includes Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” overture Schoenberg’s “Friede auf Erden” in an instrumental as well as a vocal version and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. The program will also include the world premiere of Unsuk Chin’s “snagS & Snarls, work for voice and orchestra.”

Ojai, set in a beautiful valley with orange and avocado groves, is a little more than an hour’s drive from Malibu. The quaint village offers charming restaurants and shops. On Saturday and Sunday, during the music festival, Libbey Park will be the scene of Art in the Park, a juried exhibit of California artists.

Reserved seats for the concerts range in price from $70 to $25. However, many festival lovers prefer sitting on the lawn, picnicking and listening to the music. At $15, the price is right. The number to call is 805.646.2053, and tickets go fast.