At the Ojai Festival, a Star Pianist Keeps the Focus on Young Artists

At the Ojai Festival, a Star Pianist Keeps the Focus on Young Artists

Mitsuko Uchida sat on the piano along with her again to the viewers.

It was an uncommon search for a reigning pianist who can fill a live performance corridor, or promote a brand new album of 200-year-old sonatas, on the power of simply of her title and face. But over 4 evenings of performances on the Ojai Music Festival in California, that’s how Uchida performed.

It was particularly unusual, provided that she was the pageant’s music director, an annual put up given to an artist to arrange programming and the roster of performers. Throughout the pageant’s outside campus, her title was on T-shirts and indicators, to not point out Vogue-thick program books handed out at every live performance.

Then once more, we’re speaking about Ojai, the place open-minded audiences absorb music accompanied by nature and snack on freshly picked pixie tangerines. Uchida may need appeared like a headliner, however this pageant is about sharing the wealth.

She invited associates and colleagues whom she has identified for years, just like the endlessly genial Brentano String Quartet. Most closely featured, in the course of the pageant’s run from June 6 by means of 9, was the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, with whom Uchida usually excursions in concerto applications that she leads from the piano.

Those excursions, although, not often showcase the shape-shifting resourcefulness the ensemble dropped at Ojai. Its members performed pop-up miniatures in Libbey Park, the pageant’s heart, and even at a neighborhood bar as a Johnny Cash cowl band. Onstage, they took on conventional fare, like heavenly Mozart concertos with Uchida, but additionally extra modern works by Missy Mazzoli and John Adams.

At their most touching, they carried out “Lichtbogen,” by Kaija Saariaho, who died simply over a 12 months in the past and was honored with tributes sprinkled all through the pageant. For that piece, her daughter, Aliisa Neige Barrière, led the Mahler gamers, with authority and style, whereas her widower, Jean-Baptiste Barrière, operated dwell electronics. During the applause afterward, Aliisa held up her mom’s rating to the viewers.

If the Mozart concerto that adopted represented Uchida the performer, the remainder of the pageant confirmed her affect as a mentor. She has been a pacesetter of Marlboro Music, a summer time program for younger artists, for greater than 20 years, and he or she handed a lot of the Ojai actual property to Marlboro alumni, just like the cellist Jay Campbell and the violinist Alexi Kenney.

But they weren’t alone among the many youthful musicians whom Uchida supported. Here are some who appeared all through the pageant’s dozen concert events over 72 hours.

Campbell performs cello within the JACK Quartet, an ensemble that, in its adventurousness and communal spirit, could be a great group music director at Ojai. (And the quartet has already appeared on the pageant.) As a soloist, although, Campbell is an envoy of musical chance.

His best appearances have been in 8 a.m. concert events on the idyllic Besant Hill School outdoors Ojai, and on the Chaparral Auditorium on the town. On Saturday, at a efficiency billed as a morning meditation, he performed a model of Catherine Lamb’s “The Additive Arrow,” one of many pageant’s excessive factors.

For most of Lamb’s 30-minute piece, Campbell performed regular drones of pitches that, at frequencies in multiples of 10, harmonized naturally with each other. Outside, a microphone was positioned on the garden, dealing with the road and feeding any passing sound to a laptop computer inside; from there, audio system emitted sound that the microphone had gathered at a particular frequency, however with a variety of amplitude that captured the distinction in energy between, say, a chicken and a pickup truck. Often, this could pit management and chaos towards one another, however Lamb as an alternative engineers an alluring stability of the 2.

The steadiness of Campbell’s bow, and his readability, required the type of attentiveness that has lengthy made Minimalism each troublesome and rewarding for gamers; you might see, in his facial features of meditative focus and move, how intensely the music had affected him.

Elsewhere, he carried out works by Helmut Lachenmann that discover the character of sound manufacturing: “Toccatina,” by which Campbell tapped the strings of his cello with the screw finish of his bow, and caressingly bowed the instrument’s scroll and tailpiece; and “Pression,” an A.S.M.R.-like piece of scraping strings and brushing the cello’s picket physique with fingernails. A crow in a close-by tree appeared aggravated, however Campbell’s human viewers was visibly rapt, following his each gesture.

When Campbell performed Sofia Gubaidulina’s duet “In Croce,” he was joined by the accordionist Ljubinka Kulisic, who all through the pageant introduced virtuosic dazzle and depth to an instrument with a wealthy historical past in each folks and classical music.

“In Croce” opens with the accordion high-pitched and light-weight in an analogue of a cello’s arpeggiated harmonic slides. Kulisic repeatedly performed the determine, as if in a trance, till Campbell reduce into it with slices of downward phrases. Then he was pushed to extremes of ardour and energy whereas she unleashed a broad spectrum of coloration, till, on the finish, he took up her theme from the beginning.

More playful was Kulisic’s account of the John Zorn solo “Road Runner,” a short piece that unfolds like an anarchic playlist of acquainted tunes on shuffle, with quite a lot of room for improvisation and instructions to “make errors.” She took it up with a comic book spirit, smiling because the viewers giggled on the recognition of melodies from the usual repertoire and popular culture, earlier than abruptly switching to one thing new or slamming her fingers down in tone clusters.

At Sunday’s morning meditation live performance, she carried out, much less hectically, works by John Cage: “Dream” and “Souvenir” breathed in lengthy, spare phrases punctuated by dense however harmonious chords. “Cheap Imitation,” a therapy of Satie utilizing probability operations, was conversational and wandering, welcoming at the beginning and lulling by the tip.

The morning program that included “In Croce” additionally featured the delicate percussionist Sae Hashimoto, in Lachenmann’s “Intérieur I.” A kaleidoscopic tour of sound manufacturing, it was so athletic that, when Hashimoto dropped a mallet and picked it as much as play the following be aware with out lacking a beat, she seemed extra like a dancer recovering from a flub than an instrumentalist.

At Libbey Park on Sunday, she carried out Saariaho’s “Six Japanese Gardens,” attractive sound portraits of actual locations that appeared, on this efficiency, to additionally seize Hashimoto’s method: her shifting timbres amid unwaveringly regular beats; her stability of focus and fluid movement; the magical class with which she conjures simultaneous momentum and stasis.

Of the younger Ojai artists this 12 months, Kenney had probably the most combined success. His studying of Gyorgy Kurtag’s “Kafka Fragments” with the soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon (one other Marlboro veteran) was by turns foolish, stunning and mysteriously profound. But his multimedia recital “Shifting Ground,” offered twice on the pageant, was a confused try at theatrical efficiency.

In a black-box house on the Ojai Valley School, Kenney performed in entrance of a white curtain used as a display screen for projections by the artist Xuan. The program, he wrote in an artist assertion, was constructed round Bach’s Chaconne, the monumental finale to the Partita No. 2 in D minor. He had the same thought for an excellent efficiency on the 92nd Street Y, New York, a number of years in the past; this live performance, although, was extra digressive, with departures like Angélica Negrón’s “The Violinist,” a chunk for violin and electronics, in addition to a voice-over of the comic Ana Fabrega recounting a musical nightmare. It was charming, nevertheless it additionally relegated Kenney to a soundtrack performer.

Kenney is on the precise path, although, in considering critically in regards to the format of a recital. That he’s curious, and keen to experiment, displays the promise already evident in his enjoying.

From a seat on the sides of the theater, you might nearly ignore the video artwork and deal with that purely technical facet of his artistry, the facet that was much more seen in Biber’s Passacaglia on Sunday. Here was the type buried by “Shifting Ground”: Kenney breathes melodies together with his bow and physique, usually stress-free right into a gesture, expressive not as an have an effect on however as internalized feeling. Like his Bach, the Biber might be impatient, however solely as a result of it was intuitive, much less studied than embodied.

The efficiency recalled one in every of Uchida’s spare, however deeply communicative recitals. She could also be conventional by comparability, however as his mentor she will supply this lesson: Sometimes all an viewers wants is sweet music and a great musician.


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