Summer Festivals: Variety Spices Musical Fare in Northern Calif.

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By Robert P. Commanday

There’s choice aplenty for music lovers in Northern California, where 11 summer festivals light up the evening skies. Here’s a look ahead at the ones devoted to concert or art music.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (John W. Lambert)
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (John W. Lambert)

Music in the Mountains (since 1982) this year produces its Summerfest from June 11 to July 3 in the foothill cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City, importing a professional orchestra of quality under a new director, Gregory Vajda. Its 11 concerts are mostly in the Amaral Center, Nevada County Fairgrounds, Grass Valley, leading off with a pair of Young Composers Concerts on June 11 and 14. Then, on July 21, Ravel, Rodrigo, and Bizet, with Gyan Riley, guitar soloist; June 22 morning: a family concert with music by Britten and Mozart; and evening: 3 Leg Torso, a “pop modern chamber music” quintet; July 23: Orchestra with Alexander Korsantia, piano; June 27: book readings, with music; June 29: Orchestra and chorus with the rock group Queen; June 30: Beethoven and Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphonies; July 1: new works by Nevada County composers; and July 3: an Independence Day pops concert and picnic. http://musicinthemountains.org/events-tickets/summerfest-2013/. For more information, call 800-218-2188 or info@musicinthemountains.org.

Stern Grove Music Festival 2012
Stern Grove Music Festival 2012

The Stern Grove Festival, founded in 1913, offering free performances. Stern Grove traditionally produces 10 programs between the third week in June and the last week of August, seven of the events being popular attractions and the other three featuring the San Francisco Ballet, Symphony, and Opera. The 2013 season will be announced on May 1. http://www.sterngrove.org/. For more information, call 415-252-6252 or info@sterngrove.org.

The Napa Valley Festival del Sole, founded in 2006, opens its season on July 12, with a gala featuring Audra McDonald singing songs from shows and films in the Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga. On July 13, the Russian National Orchestra (RNO), Carlo Ontanaro conducting, plays Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, soloist, and Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony.

Napa Valley Festival del Sole
Napa Valley Festival del Sole

On July 14, in the Lincoln Theater, Yountville, the principal venue, the Orchestra Institute Napa Valley of conservatory musicians selected nationally gives a free community/family concert, performing again on the morning of July 16. That evening, with the RNO, Sarah Chang plays the Barber Violin Concerto and Thibaudet again plays the Saint-Saëns Fifth Piano Concerto. On the morning of July 17, at the Jarvis Conservatory in Napa, Benjamin Penzner performs in the first of three consecutive Bouchaine Young Artist Concerts. That night, Nina Kotova, cello, Ekaterina Scherbachenko, soprano, and Vladimir Viardo, piano, perform Rachmaninoff in honor of the 140th anniversary of his birth, in the winery Opus One, Oakville. On July 18, Sarah Chang plays Brahms and Prokofiev at the Castello di Amorosa. On July 20, Jessye Norman sings Duke Ellington and Cole Porter at the Far Niente Winery, Oakville. The July 21 finale is a concert of opera arias by Ekaterina Scherbachenko with the RNO. http://festivaldelsole.org/. For more information, call 888-337-6272 or office@festivaldelsole.org.

American Bach Soloists (Gene Kosoy)
American Bach Soloists (Gene Kosoy)

The American Bach Festival Soloists Festival and Academy takes place at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music July 12-21, starting with Bach, Biber and Schmelzer chamber works on July 12. A free colloquium on “Pitch, Tuning, Temperaments, Scordatura” is at 2:30 p.m. on July 13, followed by Biber’s polychoral Missa Salisburgensis that evening. Hear Bach’s B minor Mass July 14; the Academy in Baroque chamber works, July 15; Lectures on Bach’s Unaccompanied Bach Suites, Biber, a harpsichord master class, and Baroque chamber works, July 16; master classes – cello, gamba, violone, bass; a lecture on the B minor Mass, July 18; master classes – winds and brass; a lecture on Handel’s English oratorios, July 19; master classes – voice; a lecture on early music singing, and a cello concert with Tanya Tomkins, July 20; and Bach’s B minor Mass, July 21. http://americanbach.org/. For more information, call 415-621-7900 or info@americanbach.org.

Carmel Bach Festival Chorale (R. R. Jones)
Carmel Bach Festival Chorale (rr jones)

The Carmel Bach Festival, founded in 1935 and directed by Paul Goodwin, produces its concerts in Carmel’s Sunset Theater and churches, two and three a day, July 13-27. The 2013 version, French in emphasis, opens July 13 with an orchestral/choral concert, Bach to Fauré (including a new commissioned work by Thea Musgrave), repeated July 20; July 14 brings Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (complete) and, in the evening, Schubert’s Octet, repeated July 21. There follow a Bach organ recital, chamber music by Bach and Handel, and an orchestral Baroque program, all on July 15; two chamber concerts and orchestral (French, from Machaut to Poulenc) on July 16. July 17 features a chamber concert – Charpentier, Lully, et al., Haydn, Beethoven trios, a Mozart sonata – and the main concert in Carmel Mission of De Mondonville, Fauré, Macmillan, Daniel-LeSur, and a Bach cantata and motet. The festival continues July 18 with two chamber concerts of French chansons, Bach and  Corelli, an orchestra concert of J.C. Bach, J.S. Bach, Prutsman and Milhaud; and on July 19 with chamber concerts – Gluck to Piazzolla, and Mozart, Beethoven, Cambini – and the orchestra playing Rameau, Ravel, and Berlioz. Repeats of the first week occur July 20-26, and the finale, “Best of the Fest,” is July 27. http://www.bachfestival.org/festival_at_a_glance.htm. For more information, call 831-624-1521 or info@bachfestival.org.

Chamber concerts at Mendocino Music Festival (Nicholas Wilson)
Chamber venue, Mendocino Music Festival (Nicholas Wilson)

The Mendocino Music Festival (since 1985), directed by Allan Pollack, opens July 13 with an orchestra concert of Verdi, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff in the festival tent and thereafter intersperses concerts with popular attractions: July 14 – popular; July 15 – piano recital by James D’Leon; July 15-16:  chamber concerts; July 17: Poco country-rock concert; July 18:  Robert Schwartz, piano; July 18-19: two popular events; July 19: Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino;  July 20: three jazz programs;  July 21: Japan’s Ocean Day, with music of Toru Takemitsu; July 22: Gloria Cheng, piano;  July 23: the Calder Quartet and Gloria Cheng; and July 24: Middle East Peace Concert with the Dror Sinai Trio and Orchestra performing music by Sheng, Takemitsu, Rodrigo, and Debussy with Shin-Ichi Fukuda, guitar. http://www.mendocinomusic.org/events/2013-07/. For more information, call 707-937-2044 or info@mendocinomusic.org.

Wu Han and David Finckel, Music@Menlo
Wu Han and David Finckel, founders, Music@Menlo

Music@Menlo, in its 10th year, runs July 18-Aug. 10 and has a unique program involving a cast of 45 artists, two string quartets, and lecturers for its Encounter Series, performing in the Center for the Performing Arts in Menlo-Atherton, Menlo School, Stent Family Hall, Martin Family Hall. The current season’s theme is “Maps and Legends,” having to do with the effect on music of distinct musical cultures. Main concerts are often preceded by Prelude Performances, chamber music programs played at 5:30 p.m. by advanced students who are selected nationally to be taught and coached by the artist faculty. Other features are open coaching sessions and rehearsals, cafe conversations with artists, and five “Carte Blanche” concerts (morning solo recitals). Eight evening concert programs of chamber music will be given. All is directed by its founding couple, David Finckel and Wu Han.  http://www.musicatmenlo.org/. For more information, call 650-330-2030 or tickets@musicatmenlo.org.

Midsummer Mozart Festival, San Francisco
Midsummer Mozart Festival, San Francisco

The Midsummer Mozart Festival, conducted by its founder, George Cleve, produces two programs, each performed four times, in the Mission Santa Clara, Santa Clara, the First Congregational Church, Berkeley, the Gundlach-Bundschu Winery, Sonoma, and the Florence Gould Theater, Legion of Honor, San Francisco. Program 1, July 18-21: Mozart’s C minor Wind Serenade, Eine kleine Nachtmusik, two arias with Rebecca Davis, soprano, and the E-flat Piano Concerto, K. 449, with Audrey Vardanega, soloist. Program 2, July 25-28: Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 in D (Paris) , Violin Concerto No. 5 in A and Rondo in B-flat, with Mayuko Kamio, violin, and the Symphony No. 39 in E-flat. http://www.midsummermozart.org/. For more information, call 415-627-9141 or peter@midsummermozart.org.

Michael Morgan, Bear Valley Music Festival
Michael Morgan, Bear Valley Music Festival

The Bear Valley Music Festival, founded in 1968, with a new conductor, Michael Morgan, mixes classical with popular programs starting with Richard Glazier, piano, in “From Gershwin to Garland” on July 26. Then follows country/jazz July 27. On Aug. 1, the festival orchestra plays Mozart’s Impresario Overture, Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, with the Delphi Trio, and Britten’s Variations on Theme of Frank Bridge. On Aug. 2, Taylor Eigsti, piano, and Dayna Stephens, saxophone, offer jazz, followed by the Festival Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Symphony No 7. Aug. 3 brings a Family Concert led by Dawn Harms (morning) and a Festival Orchestra concert featuring a Van Cliburn competition winner, Respighi’s The Birds, and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4. Aug. 4 features a Young Artists concert; and Aug. 7, the Delphi Trio (free). Aug. 8 spotlights Broadway selections, with orchestra and Katy Stephan, soprano; on Aug. 9, the Festival Orchestra performs Dvorak’s Czech Suite, Barber’s Knoxville, Summer of 1915 with Shawnette Sulker, soprano, and Poulenc’s Sinfonietta. The grand finale on Aug. 11 is all-Mozart: Symphony No. 31, the Flute & Harp Concerto, and Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter.” Bear Valley is in the Sierras on Highway 4 between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. http://www.bearvalleymusicfestival.org/. For more information, call 800-458-1618 or  info@bearvalleymusicfestival.org.

Century Farm Winery, Music in the Vineyards
Century Farm Winery, Music in the Vineyards

Music in the Vineyards is a traveling or movable festival  -12 chamber music programs in nine Napa vineyards and the Napa Valley Museum: the Pacifica Quartet playing Haydn, Elliott Carter, and Ravel in the Beringer Vineyards on August 7; Bart Feller, flute, Paul Neubauer, viola, and string quartet playing music by Doppler, Foote, Schulenberg, Valdez, and Dvořák at Frog’s Leap Vineyards, August 9; music by Haydn, Prokoviev, and Brahms in the Robert Mondavi Vineyard, August 10; music by Quantz, Boccherini, and Schubert at Clos Pegase, August 11; music by Beethoven and Visconti at Markham Vineyards, August 14; Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale with actors, a dancer, and septet, at the Napa Valley Museum, August 15; music by Mozart, Piatti, and Fauré at Freemark Abbey Winery, August 17; music by Beethoven, Bach, and Golijov at Black Stallion Winery, August 18; Music by Britten and Mendelssohn at The Hess Collection, August 21; and, for the grand finale, three concerts in three days at the Silverado Vineyards: concerti by Vivaldi, Corelli, Tartini, and Telemann on August 23; music by Robert Schumann, Prokofiev, Hindemith, and Shostakovich on August 24; and music by Haydn, Strauss, Bartók, and Brahms on August 25. http://www.musicinthevineyards.org/. For more information, call 707-258-5559 or mitv@sonic.net.

Cabrillo Festival 2012 (rr jones)
Cabrillo Festival, Marin Alsop conducting, 2012 (rr jones)

Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Aug. 2-11. Marin Alsop*, music director, presents a program of 13 composers, 10 of whom will be in residence. The performances, mostly in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, will offer premiere commissions: Kevin Puts’ Concerto for British flutist Adam Walker, Sean Friar in a collaboration with composer John Adams, U.S. premieres by Australian Brett Dean and Philip Glass, and West Coast premieres of music by Christopher Rouse and George Walker. After a free prelude concert of young composers’ music on July 31, the Aug. 2 program offers Derek Bermel’s Dust Dances, Puts’ Flute Concerto and Rouse’s Symphony No. 3. Aug. 3 features Friar’s Noise Gate, Thomas Newman’s It Got Dark with the Kronos Quartet, and Dean’s Fire Music. The Aug. 4 Kronos program offers chamber music by several composers, while on Aug. 10 there will be Andrew Norman’s Unstuck, Enrico Chapela’s Magnetar, and Glass’ Symphony No. 10. On Aug. 11, the final program, at the Mission San Juan Bautista, to be played at 4 and 7:30, will be Walker’s Sinfonia No. 4, Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto with Emil Jonason, clarinet, and Anna Clyne’s Night Ferry. http://www.cabrillomusic.org/. For more information, call 831-426-6966 or info@cabrillomusic.org.

*7/10/13: The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Alsop has had to withdraw, due to “a ‘minor’ hand injury.” See http://www.sfgate.com/music/article/Marin-Alsop-withdraws-from-Cabrillo-festival-4658292.php.

Robert P. Commanday, founding editor, San Francisco Classical Voice, was The San Francisco Chronicle Music Critic, 1965 -93, previously conductor and lecturer, UC Berkeley.