The SFCV Summer Music Festival Guide, 2016

Mark MacNamara on June 24, 2016

Green Music Center ChamberFest 2016 | June 22–26

About 1 hour from San Francisco

Tanglewood West, as it were. At the Green Music Center, with fabulous Weill Hall, on the grounds of Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park — the next town after Petaluma driving north on Hwy 101. Seven concerts in five days; all Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn. Culminating in an all-Mozart program with the Santa Rosa Symphony on the lawn outside Weill Hall. Curated by artistic director, conductor, and pianist Jeffrey Kahane. Tickets to $30.

Musicians at the festival include principal cellist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, Hai-Ye Ni, pianist Jon Kimura Parker, violinist Angelo Xiang Yu, violist Aloysia Friedman, cellist Desmond Hoebig, and double bassist Scott Pingel. Also, violinist Benjamin Beilman, violist Paul Neubauer, and the Miró Quartet.

Three programs, in Schroeder Hall: Wednesday, June 22, 7 p.m., Schubert’s Fantasy in F Minor for Piano, Four-hands; Mozart’s Sonata in B-Flat Major for Violin and Piano. Schubert’s Quintet in A Major for Piano and Strings.  On Thursday, June 23, 7 p.m., Mozart’s Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos, Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet. On Friday, June 24, 3 p.m. Mozart’s Divertimento in E-Flat Major for String Trio, and Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor.

Green Music Center ChamberFest 2016Return to Top

Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival | June 24 – Aug 7

About 6.5 hours from San Francisco

In Weaverville, California, one hour west of Redding on fabled route 299. Founded in 2011 by S.F. Conservatory grad Ian Scarfe. The festival ‘trailhead’ is in the Trinity Alps Performing Arts Center. Other venues are in churches and museums in Redding, Eureka, Coffee Creek, Hyampom, and in Redwood National Park. No ticket sales; donations only.

The festival opens in Eureka with Beethoven’s String Trio in G, Op. 9, No. 1; Dvorak’s Bagatelles for harmonium and strings, Op. 47; and Clay,  New Commission for harmonium and strings. No concerts in July. Festival resumes in the first weekend in August at the Hyampom Community Hall with a program of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A and Brahms’ Piano Quintet, Op. 34. Other concerts that weekend of August 5, with the same program, will be in Weaverville and Redding.

On August 12 – 14, concerts in Hyampom, Willow Creek, and at the Trailhead Pizza Café in Coffee Creek. “Bach goes Outdoors.” Telemann, Flute Concerto in G; Bach, Harpsichord Concerto; Heitor Villa-Lobos, String Quartet No. 1; Bartok, String Quartet No. 3.

Finale on August 26-27, in Weaverville and Redding: "East Meets West”: Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 80; Antonin Dvorak’s Piano Trio No. 4 “Dumky,” Op. 90; and Alisa Rose - Piano Trio for Luisa.

Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival | Return to Top

Chamber Music Northwest | June 25 – July 31

About 10 hours from San Francisco 

Five weeks. Fifty concerts. At Reed College in Southeast Portland. Since 1971. Under the direction of acclaimed clarinetist David Shifrin. For the first time since 1998, the offering is all 16 Beethoven string quartets. The influence of “Papa” Haydn is one focus. Some performances at Portland State University.  Concerts on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, at 8 p.m. Many ticket packages available. Lower box seats, for example: $300, the top price for five nights.

Festival accompanied by five-week course on Tuesday nights with composers and music professor at Portland State University:  Renée Favand-See, Kenji Bunch, and Bonnie Miksch take turns exploring the chamber music canon and how they relate to modern pieces and composition practices.

Ensembles include nine-time Grammy winners, the Emerson Quartet, born in 1976 at Juilliard. Also, Dover Quartet, Miro Quartet, Orion String Quartet, Zora String Quartet, and the Akropolis Reed Quintet. Returning festival favorites: Paul Neubauer, Fred Sherry, and Peter Wiley. Note also violinists Jennifer Frautschi; Turkish-American violinists Ida Kavafian and Ani Kavafian.  Pianists include Melvin Chen, Gilles Vonsattel, and André Watts.

Note Le Grand Tango night, with Tango for Musicians at Reed College. Also, piano duo Melvin Chen and Hilda Huang collaborate with BodyVox world-class dancers to bring to life two Shakespeare classics.

Chamber Music Northwest | Return to Top

San Francisco Symphony | July 4–29

In San Francisco

SFS has no festival this summer. But the July calendar offers the equivalent. Thirteen concerts in 27 days. A potpourri of summer lightness, a lot of John Williams, for example, but weighted Beethoven’s Ninth, the week after Independence Day.

The orchestra takes it outdoors three times, first on July 4 at the Shoreline Amphitheater (with Copland's Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo, selections from John Williams' scores, and, of course, patriotic music and marches). And if you want still more John Williams, then a whole night of it on July 7. And still again at the Stern Grove Festival, July 10, beneath the eucalyptus trees, John Williams’ music from The Cowboys, Lincoln and Midway. But there’s also Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite and Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. And the orchestra plays for free out at Pier 27 at midday, July 24, with Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Mussorgsky.

Other highlights, later in July, include Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage: A 50th Anniversary Celebration; Ratatouille — Feature Film with Live Orchestra; an Evening in Paris with Madeleine Peyroux; a Russian celebration of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich; a night of Gershwin and Bernstein, with jazz pianist Makoto Ozone joining the Symphony for his  “thrilling [and] virtuosic” rendition of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Then finally, in the last days, of July, music from FINAL FANTASY® VIVII, and X, one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. And last but not least Pink Martini and the San Francisco Symphony, two evenings of cabaret, samba, and jazz.

San Francisco Symphony | Return to Top

Grand Teton Music Festival | July 4 – Aug. 30

About 14 hours from San Francisco

In Teton Village, Wyoming. Half a mile from the national park, six miles up from Jackson on the Moose-Wilson road. If you’ve never been, the beauty is humbling. Seven weeks, more than 40 concerts. Founded in 1962. Now under the direction of Donald Runnicles, who served as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the San Francisco Opera from 1992 to 2009.

Casual western attire is the norm. Festival includes “Patriotic Pops” on Independence Day; interactive music lectures; free family concerts, $10 open rehearsals, $25 chamber music concerts, and festival orchestra tickets to $55.

Artists include violinist Joshua Bell (Saint-Saens; Vivaldi; Piazzolla), cellist Johannes Moser (Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme), violinist Nicola Benedetti (Beethoven’s final Violin Sonata), the Naughton Sisters, identical twin pianists (Rachmaninoff; Saint-Saens; Poulenc); percussionist Colin Currie (Rouse’s percussion concerto), pianist Jonathan Biss (Beethoven sonatas), and violinist Simone Porter (Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto).

Runnicles conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with the National Collegiate Chorale of Scotland. Note also: a world premiere commission from American composer, Aaron Jay Kernis, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for his String Quartet No. 2 (musica instrumentalis).

Grand Teton Music Festival | Return to Top

Mendocino Music Festival | July 9–23

About 3.5 hours from San Francisco

At one of Northern California’s most treasured rivieras. Festival has run since 1986. Main venue is Tent Concert Hall on Main Street. Sixteen days: evening concerts include big band, chamber music ensembles, blues, jazz, world, folk, bluegrass. Daytime concerts feature lectures/recitals, a performance by those in the Emerging Artists Program, and small concerts in intimate sites in both Mendocino and Fort Bragg (15 minutes’ drive to the north). Tickets to $47.

Thirteen classical music events. Highlights include Stephen Prutsman and Geoff Nuttall playing Bach violin sonatas. The Calder Quartet performs the Debussy String Quartet, Anders Hillborg’s Kongsgaard Variations, and Beethoven’s Op. 59, No. 2. Pianist Robert Henry plays Haydn and Brahms, and a rarely heard work by Lili Boulanger, sister of the great French pedagogue, Nadia Boulanger. Pianist Christopher Atzinger performs works by Mozart, Brahms, and Chopin, and also his signature performance of Samuel Barber’s sonata. And violin virtuoso David McCarroll offers his interpretation of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

The classical theme of the festival is “All About Beethoven.” Multimedia lectures by festival co-founder Susan Waterfall, and other musicians, including Brian Thorsett, Miles Graber, Tammie Dyar, Tingting Gu, Alexander Volonts, and Burke Schuchmann.  Lectures address Beethoven’s life and times, not least the controversy over the recipient of the composer’s unsent note, in pencil, to his “immortal beloved.”

Mendocino Music Festival | Return to Top

Carmel Bach Festival | July 13–30

About 2.5 hours from San Francisco

Founded in 1935. Now a two-week program of 42 events including concerts, recitals, master classes, lectures, and open rehearsals. Everything J. S. Bach, but extending all over the classical map, with orchestra, chorus, and solo recitals. Under the direction of conductor Paul Goodwin. Venues include, among others, the Sunset Center Theater, Carmel Mission Basilica, Church in the Forest, San Carlos Cathedral, and Monterey Museum of Art. Tickets to $89, but most much less.

Highlights: July 18: “Bach and Sons” featuring concertmaster Peter Hanson and organist/harpsichordist Andrew Arthur. July 19: Mozart’s Idomeneo, opera with narration with Mhairi Lawson, Clara Rottsolk, Meg Bragle, Thomas Cooley, and Peter Harvey. July 20: “Immortal Bach” -- Andrew Megill conducts orchestra, chorale and chorus in cantata excerpts by Bach paired with music derived from them by Brahms, Paul Simon, Paul Hindemith and others. July 24: “Dvorak and Brahms by Candlelight” Dvořák’s “Dumka” from Sextet for Strings, Op. 48; Brahms’ Sextet in B-flat Major, Op. 18. Played by Peter Hanson, Cynthia Roberts, violin; Patrick Jordan and Karina Schmitz, viola; Allen Whear and Margaret Jordan-Gay, cello.

Carmel Bach Festival | Return to Top

Festival Napa Valley | July 15–24

About 1.5 hours from San Francisco

Formerly Festival Del Sole: nine days, 43 events. More than a dozen classical music concerts, plus jazz, dance, and other events, including vintner tastings, dinners, lunches and brunches, after parties; fashion shows, and fun runs; Yoga; and a tribute to Margrit Mondavi, the grand dame of the valley. Venues include 30 local wineries. Packages and passports encouraged. Access to 28 events, including concerts and meals: $10,000. (!)

Clothing note: “To complete every daytime outfit, guests should wear sunglasses and a stylish hat. For evenings, a jacket for him and a wrap for her, as temperatures can drop. Practical shoes are strongly recommended, as many events take place in outdoor settings.”

Classical musicians and singers include soprano Kathleen Battle, violinist Sarah Chang, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, violinist Alexi Kenney, the ensemble Les Violettes, Cuban Classical pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, conductor Carlo Ponti, baritone Gino Quilico, the San Francisco Ballet, Ensemble Triosphere, and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.

And then Festival Orchestra Napa, built around a core of musicians from New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra led by concertmaster Laura Hamilton and conductor Joel Revzen.  The orchestra includes handpicked musicians from, among others, the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Toronto Symphony.

Festival Napa Valley | Return to Top

Ventura Music Festival | July 15–24

About 6.5 hours from San Francisco

Otherwise known as Buenaventura, the town is 40 minutes south of Santa Barbara; human remains found here go back 10,000 years. In 1994, the city decided to upgrade its arts infrastructure; the festival was born. Most performances are at either the Ventura College Performing Arts Center or the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Tickets to $35.

This year the program ranges from Sergio Mendez (Brasil 66) to award-winning Hollywood film composers Bruce Broughton and Larry Groupè.  For classical music types the must-not-misses include Anderson & Roe —whom SFCV has called “the most dynamic piano duo of this generation.” Their program includes both classical and contemporary selections.

Other highlights include Vadym Kholodenko, winner of the gold medal at the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition; cabaret icon, Ute Lemper, best known for her interpretations of Berlin cabaret songs, and so, naturally, the works of Weill and Brecht. Also, songs of Edith Piaf and Astor Piazzolla.

And then the festival’s Artistic Director, Nuvi Mehta, a violin virtuoso himself, engages three colleagues in a unique performance. The colleagues are Benjamin Jaber (horn); Egle Januleviciute (piano); and Monica Abrego, one of Mexico’s premier sopranos. The program includes works by Jules Massenet; Ravel; Holst; Arnold Cooke; Brahms, Strauss, and Schubert. 

Ventura Music Festival | Return to Top

Music@Menlo | July 15 – Aug. 6

About 1 hour from San Francisco

Well-loved local festival; seven concerts; theme-oriented. This year, “Russian Reflections.” Performances at the Center for the Performing Arts Menlo-Atherton, and Martin Family Hall at the Menlo School. Tickets to $70.

Music@Menlo takes its themes seriously, organizing the “Encounter” lecture series, as well as concerts of astonishing breadth and interest. The opening concert this year includes both Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings (with 11 players) and the piano-four hands version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The Carte Blanche artist-programmed recitals are often some of the most interesting things at the Festival: take for example, Festival co-directors David Finckel and Wu Han, offering famous cello sonatas by Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich alongside one from 2002 by Lera Auerbach.

Artists at the festival include Russian violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, in the company of his phenomenal duo partner, pianist Wu Qian. Note also the festival debuts of the Calidore String Quartet and violinist Kyoko Takezawa; the return of charismatic Tchaikovsky Competition gold medal winner violinist Elmar Oliveira, in the company of cellist Paul Watkins and debut pianist Alon Goldstein.

“Encounters,” this year begins with flutist, Michael Parloff, who explores the “fusion of Russian nationalism and European modernism” and how that fusion influenced Russia’s intricate musical identity.

Another encounter, with author Stuart Isacoff examines an often forgotten detail in the mural of the Cold War. In 1958, with the specter of American vulnerability in the public mind, following the launch of Sputnik 1, a 23-year-old kid from Shreveport named Van Cliburn showed up at the inaugural Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow and won first prize. He was cast as the “American Sputnik” and for a moment, it seemed as though classical music had jammed the levers of war. But offstage other forces were in play, with tragedy sometimes the result.

Each weekday of the festival, at 11:45 a.m. on the campus of Menlo School, the public is invited to free events, including either a master class with the Chamber Music Institute’s young artists or a “Café Conversation”, in which artists and distinguished guests discuss issues of the day in classical music.  Other free events include Prelude Performances and Koret Young Performers Concerts.

Music@Menlo | Return to Top

Valley of the Moon Music Festival | July 16–31       

About 1.5 hours from San Francisco

Sonoma. Still summer nights; an occasional cricket. This is the festival’s second season. Noted for chamber music on period instruments, extending into the 19th Century. Theme: the “Voice in Chamber Music.”  Founders’ circle concert at the Spreckles Mansion. Otherwise, performances at the Hanna Boys Center. Tickets to $40.

Although mostly instrumental, the festival program features the composers’ love of opera and song. Including Beethoven’s Septet with historical wind instruments, Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet, and lieder.  Another evening:  Mozart, “Schon Lacht der holde Frühling” for soprano, violin, and piano; Mozart Quintet for Piano and Winds; songs with clarinet by Spohr and Meyerbeer; Schumann, Piano Quintet. 

The festival also includes a free lecture and master class — the latter with Eric Hoeprich, clarinetist and expert on historical performance. Then a lecture by Harvard professor, musicologist, and bassoonist Kate van Orden, talking about period performance in the 19th Century.

The festival is tied closely to the local wineries that “partner” each concert. The protocol suggested is to picnic on the patio of the Hanna Boys Center before the concert, and then afterwards catch a complimentary glass of wine while schmoozing with the artists.

Valley of the Moon Music Festival | Return to Top

Bear Valley Music Festival | July 22 – Aug. 6

About 4 hours from San Francisco

Opened in 1967. Off Rte. 4, due East of Sacramento, in the Stanislaus National Forest above Angels Camp. One tradition of the festival has been that many of the musicians come to hang out for the summer. Originally, classical music only; in the mid 1980s opera and Broadway show tunes were added, along with some jazz, rock, and bluegrass. So a syncretism: from the Big Bad Voo Doo Daddies to Beethoven. Tickets to about $50.

Now, the festival is the work place of Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and Sacramento Philharmonic, and one of the genuine visionaries in the world of classical music in California. 

Festival highlights include a performance by world-famous jazz violinist Mads Tolling; cellist Emil Miland and Friends, which is to say the Lowell Trio and soprano Ann Moss, performing chamber music with a twist that features music from Bach, Joni Mitchell and Natalie Cole. Also, the Del Sol String Quartet, performing both familiar and new chamber music; piano soloist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner; trumpet soloist John Pearson, and cello soloist Lucas Chen. 

Note also: Dawn Harms, member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, among the music faculty at Stanford, and an enthralling entertainer who works her charm on children and families in the annual family concert.

Bear Valley Music Festival | Return to Top

Classical Tahoe Music Festival | July 26 – Aug. 13

About 4 hours from San Francisco

Five-year old, well regarded festival known originally as the Lake Tahoe SummerFest. Founded by Madylon Meiling, a business executive, as part of a regional effort to develop a cultural foundation for the arts. “Fifth” is the theme of this year’s festival: and so Mozart’s 5th Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s epic 5th Symphony. Also music by Brahms, Gershwin, Handel, Vivaldi and others. Performances begin at 7 p.m. Main venue is the JetBlue Pavilion at Sierra College, Incline Village, NV.

Festival orchestra musicians are drawn from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the LA Phil, Reno Phil set on the edge of Lake Tahoe. Under the direction of Maestro Joel Revzen.

Remaining concerts as of August 1st: Performances on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Note: a free family concert on Sunday, August 7th at Sierra Nevada College.

Tuesday, August 2nd: Beethoven: Serenade in D Major, Op. 36; Demarre McGill (flute), Kelly Hall-Tompkins (violin), David Cerutti (viola); Stravinsky: L’histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale); Joel Revzen (conductor), Davis Gaines (narrator), Laura Hamilton (violin), Rex Surany (bass), Daniel Gilbert (clarinet), Whitney Crockett (bassoon), Billy Hunter (trumpet), Weston Sprott (trombone), Aaron McDonald (percussion).
Friday, August 5th: Brubeck: Danza del Soul; Haydn: Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra (Billy Hunter, Trumpet) Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (Bella Hristova, Violin) and August 12th : Vivaldi: Concerto for Orchestra RV 155 in G minor Mozart: Concerto No. 5 for Violin and Orchestra (Bella Hristova, Violin) Sibelius: Pelleas and Melisande.
Saturday, August 6th a Vivaldi: Concerto for Orchestra RV 155 in G minor.
Mozart: Concerto No. 5 for Violin and Orchestra (Bella Hristova, Violin); Sibelius: Pelleas and Melisande.
Tuesday, August 9th Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (arranged for clarinet and piano) Daniel Gilbert (clarinet), Donna Lee (piano); Schumann: Fantasiestucke, Op. 73; Saeunn Thorsteinsdottir (cello), Joel Revzen (piano); Saint-Saens: Bassoon Sonata Whitney Crockett (bassoon), Donna Lee (piano); Mozart: Piano Quartet in g minor, K. 478; Anna Stoytcheva (piano), Simon James (violin), Desiree Elsevier (viola), Peter Wyrick (cello).
Friday, August 12th, Rossini: Overture to La Scala di Sieta;Verdi: Ah forse a lui/Sempre Libera from La Traviata (Lisette Oropesa, Soprano); Verdi: Prelude to Act 3 from La Traviata Dvorak: Czech Suite; Verdi: Caro Nome from Rigoletto (Lisette Oropesa, Soprano) Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 “Italian.”
Saturday, August 13th, Schumann: Overture, Scherzo and Finale Weber: Andante and Rondo Ungarese for Viola and Orchestra (Milan Milisavljevic, Viola); Mozart: Exultate Jubilate (Lisette Oropesa, Soprano); Beethoven: Symphony No. 5.

Classical Tahoe Music Festival | Return to Top

Britt Classical Festival | July 29–August 20

About 7.5 hours from San Francisco

Set in a natural amphitheater in Jacksonville, Oregon, located on the hillside estate of a 19th-century photographer named Peter Britt. This is a 15-mile drive north of Ashland, Oregon. Actually the festival runs all summer and includes jazz, rock, country, world (Buena Vista Social Club) and more, but the orchestra is in residence for three weeks. The Britt Orchestra performs under the baton of Teddy Abrams, the wunderkind composer, conductor, pianist, clarinetist, social disruptor, and music director of the Louisville Orchestra. 

On the program, but separate from the main festival is the Crater Lake Project, the world premiere of a commissioned work called Natural History, inspired by Crater Lake, and composed by Michael Gordon in celebration of the National Parks Service centennial: The piece “is designed to be an experiential, spatial work. The idea is to draw out the natural sounds in and around Crater Lake and connect the natural sonic environment to the orchestra.” It will be premiered in a special performance at Watchman Overlook Corral overlooking Crater Lake.

Forty Britt Orchestra musicians will be joined by 15 members of Steiger Butte Drum, a drum troupe composed of members of the local Klamath Tribes; along with 30 brass and percussion musicians from Southern Oregon University, and a 50-member chorus. Performances are free. But the catch is that Crater Lake is about an hour away from the Festival, and transportation/ seating is limited. The Festival is providing shuttle buses to and from the performance, but bus seats have to be reserved in advance.

 Natural History will also be performed Saturday, August 20 at the Britt Pavilion, in the closing concert of the 2016 Britt Orchestra season. Other classical highlights: Aug. 19: Julia Wolfe’s Amber Waves of Grain (1988), Yefim Bronfman plays Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and the orchestra closes with Copland’s monumental Symphony No. 3. And Aug. 6: Jeremy Denk plays Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, and the orchestra follows with Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 and Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber.

Britt Music FestivalReturn to Top

Napa Valley Chamber Music Festival | July 29 – Aug. 21

About 1.5 hours from San Francisco

In the Vineyards, literally. Venues include some of America’s greatest wineries as well as the refurbished Lincoln Theater. Now the festival’s 22nd season. This year: 19 days, 26 events.

Groups include four ensembles-in-residence to Music in the Vineyards: the Escher, Jupiter, and Ariel quartets and the San Francisco Piano Trio. Also, clarinet superstar Burt Hara of the L.A. Philharmonic plays Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet.

Other festival highlights include this years’ winner of the Irving M. Klein International Competition, 17-year-old cellist Oliver Herbert, who will play Debussy’s Cello Sonata at Frog’s Leap Winery. There is a lot of excitement buzzing around a new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts. His setting of W.B. Yeats poetry, In At The Eye, will be premiered at the picturesque Chimney Rock Winery. Silverado Winery is our home for three concerts featuring masterpieces by Haydn, Brahms, Smetana, Boccherini, and Schumann, with international viola soloist Paul Neubauer featured in Soul Garden by Derek Bermel.

The final week of the festival culminates with the complete quartets of Beethoven, performed in five concerts on successive days by the Ariel Quartet. Hosting these concerts will be guest commentator Nuvi Mehta, artistic director of the Ventura Music Festival. 

Napa Valley Chamber Music Festival | Return to Top

Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music | July 31 – Aug. 13  


About 1.5 hours from San Francisco

August in Santa Cruz. The music director/ conductor for the past 25 years is leaving: Marin Alsop. This international festival is noted for daring programs. This year, as always the composers are invited and 11 will be in residence. In addition to orchestra and chamber concerts there are open rehearsals, talks, and post concert “talk-backs”; free events, include the Church Street Fair. Most events are at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Loge tickets to $65.

Among the musicians, conductor Alexandra Arrieche, the Attacca String Quartet, violinist Justin Bruns, the Choral Project, Los Angeles Duo (guitar), choreographer Kitty McNamee, with Hysterica Dance Company, oboist Katherine Needleman, singer Alicia Olatuja, and composer/narrator Gregory Smith.

Highlights: Premiere of Anna Clyne’s ballet RIFT; premiere of John Adams’ Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance, based on music from his forthcoming opera; West Coast premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Thunderstruck, based on ‘60s and ‘70s rock; West Coast premiere of Rouse’s Oboe Concerto; West Coast premiere of Kevin Puts’ The City, a loving portrait of Baltimore with an accompanying film by James Bartolomeo; and premieres from four composers under 30 years old. Also Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto (2010), Osvaldo Golijov’s Oceana (1996), and, for the festival finale, John Corigliano’s powerful Symphony No. 1.

Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music | Return to Top

La Jolla SummerFest | Aug. 3–26

About 8 hours from San Francisco

From the La Jolla Music Society, under the direction of music director, Cho-Liang Lin. Festival includes some free concerts; open rehearsals; coaching workshops; and special “encounters,” which in the past have explored music history and theory with composers-in-residence, along with presentations on developing a successful career in music. Concert tickets to $75.

Highlights include Pinchas Zukerman with the Zukerman Trio; an evening with Latin jazz clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera. Mischa Maisky plays all of J.S. Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello (two evenings). Also, concerts with internationally acclaimed pianist Marc-André Hamelin; SummerFest Chamber Orchestra with violinist Gil Shaham and led by Maestro James Conlon. Other marquee musicians: cellist Carter Brey and pianist Alex Brown. 

Ensembles: the Danish String Quartet; the Escher String Quartet; Flux Quartet; The Montrose Trio; and Time For Three.

The festival offers “restaurant nights”; the restaurants are yet to be named, but will offer champagne at 5:45 p.m.; seated dinner with wine at 6:15 p.m.; performances begin at 8 p.m.  According to organizers, these dinners will be both fun and “affordable.” For more information and reservations, contact Rewa Soltan: [email protected].

All performances are at the Sherwood Auditorium, in the gallery district in downtown La Jolla, a few blocks from Cuvier Park, a splendid spot for picnics.

La Jolla SummerFest | Return to Top

American Bach Soloists Festival and Academy | Aug. 5–14

In San Francisco

A Baroque break from summer pops. San Francisco Conservatory of Music and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco. The ABS stalwarts perform with young Academy participants on several occasions. This year’s theme is “An Italian Journey.” Highlights include opening night’s pairing of Handel’s Dixit Dominus with Vivaldi’s Gloria; Handel’s operatic serenata Parnasso in Festa (with soloists from the Academy); the combined Academy and ABS forces in massed performances of concertos by Corelli and Vivaldi; and of course, Bach’s B Minor Mass, which is not Italian, but is performed at every ABS Festival.

The cast of musicians will be familiar to ABS fans, with the addition of violinist Robert Mealy. The vocal soloists (Mary Wilson, Judith Malafronte, Kyle Stegall, Max van Egmond, William Sharp) are likewise ABS regulars. And of course there is the nonpareil ABS Chorus. The Academy participants are budding virtuosi themselves and many of their performances – including this year’s Baroque Marathon concert series – as well as all master classes and lectures are completely free to the public.

American Bach Soloists Festival and Academy | Return to Top

Lake Tahoe Music Festival | August 16 – 21

About 4 hours from San Francisco

Four “sunset serenades” in five days, complete with summer-at-the-lake ambiance, at west shore venues, in Tahoma, Homewood, and Truckee.  At 6 p.m., before the gloaming. For more than 30 years.  Picnics encouraged.  Alcohol permitted, along with deck chairs. Tickets, $25, except on the last night when they are $35. Children under 12, free. Parking fee: $10.

Performed by the Festival's 20-piece Academy Orchestra, which includes recent graduates of such schools as Juilliard, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, and the Manhattan School of Music. Featured soloists include Nathan Hughes, Principal Oboe for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and renowned international cellist, Sæunn Thorstensdóttir,

Program: August 16 at Sugar Pine Point Park in Tahoma: all Haydn, beginning with his Cello Concerto in D. August 18, at the West Shore Café in Homewood: all Mozart, including the rarely heard original version of Symphony 40 in G minor.  August 19th at the Salty Gebhardt Amphitheater in Truckee River Regional Park: Haydn, including Symphony 87 in A, the last of the so-called "Paris" symphonies. With Saeunn Thorsteindottir. August 20, at the Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City, featuring a premier work by a local composer, David Nelson; performed by the Lake Tahoe Dance Collective. And then finally on August 21, at PJ’s Bar & Grill at Gray’s Crossing Golf Course in Truckee: more Mozart and Haydn.

Lake Tahoe Music Festival | Return to Top

Philip Glass Days & Nights Festival at Big Sur | Sept. 24–27

About 3 hours from San Francisco

In Big Sur. At the Henry Miller Library, and environs. Founded by Philip Glass in 2011 as a footprint for the Philip Glass Center — a place, yet to be built, for leaders in the fields of art, science, and the environment to focus on the future “quality of human existence.” 

An eccentric festival pitched to locals as well as tourists. Four days; five events. Under the redwoods. Music, film. And then open mic, poetry jams at after hours parties ‘til 2 a.m. Venues TBA. Ticket prices: $45 to $80. Includes shuttle service from Carmel. The library has room for 300; the first 120 ticket holders can park at or near the library; beyond that people are asked to take the shuttle.

Highlight: Laurie Anderson, queen of the avant-garde, electronic music pioneer, composer. Opening night of the festival, a showing of her 2015 film, Heart of a Dog. Friday night, Glass and Anderson in concert, playing original compositions. Saturday at 2 p.m., Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer, playing modern classical repertoire. Saturday at 8 p.m., a double bill: new music from young composers, curated by composer Nico Muhly. Second, Club Diamond, a live, one-woman show starring Saori Tsukada. Sunday: storyteller Jerry Quickly presents his three-part work Whistleblower, with original music by Philip Glass.

Philip Glass Days & Nights Festival at Big Sur | Return to Top