Music Preview


    Ojai festival takes on French accent

    By Juliet Schoen/Staff Writer

    In terms of distance, Ojai isn’t too far out-only about 90 miles from Malibu-but much of the music scheduled at this year’s festival will be considered just that. The theme is “Boulez and His Impact on 20th Century Musical Life,” with Pierre Boulez himself returning for the seventh time as both composer and conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Not to worry, however. Mozart and Bach will have a share of the proceedings.

    The 57th Ojai Music Festival runs from May 28 to June 1, with concerts taking place outdoors in the natural Libby Bowl, with twittering birds accompanying the musicians. Featured artists will be mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and pianists Marino Formenti and Mitsuko Uchida.

    The first program on May 28 at 6:30 p.m. will be a master class conducted by Graham at the Ojai Valley Foursquare Church. On May 29, the morning and afternoon will be devoted to a symposium, at the same church, with various scholars and artists discussing French modernism. The first concert will take place that evening at 8:15 p.m., with Graham singing Ravel’s “Scheherazade” and Maestro Boulez leading the orchestra in performances of Stravinsky’s “Symphony in Three Movements” and Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra.”

    Things start heating up on Saturday with three concerts scheduled. In the morning, at 10:30 a.m., the Armadillo String Quartet will present a family concert. At 2:30 p.m., the redoubtable pianist Marino Formenti returns to Ojai to offer a recital featuring music old and new. Among the composers represented are Stockhausen, Bach, Webern, Beethoven, Jarrell, Messiaen, Debussy and Boulez. Formenti will present a pre-concert talk at 1:30 p.m. That evening, at 8:30 p.m., an all-Boulez concert is scheduled. Artists participating are pianist Mitsuko Uchida, violinist Martin Chalifour, clarinetist Lorin Levee and the CalArts New Century Players.

    On Sunday, June 1, at 11 a.m., Graham will offer a recital with songs by Brahms, Debussy, Berg and Poulenc. The festivities will conclude with Pierre Boulez leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Mozart “Piano Concerto No. 18 in B flat” and the Mahler “Symphony No. 9.” Uchida will be the soloist in the Mozart work.

    The 2003 season will be the final one under the artistic direction of Ernest Fleischman. He will be succeeded next year by Thomas Morris, executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra. Kent Nagano will return as music director for the fourth time.

    Series subscriptions and single tickets can be obtained by calling 805.646.2053. Many attendees eschew the chairs and prefer to listen while sprawled out on the lawn. That’s part of what Ojai is about.