Back from Ojai

I left beautiful sunny and cool Cali yesterday morning, and arrived in the sticky humid pool that is NYC late last night. Oh my God!! this heat!!! the first thing I did after climbing the three floors to my apartment was to install the air conditioner.

So the Ojai Festival finished with a bang. Mad props to SIGNAL for a phenomenal opening concert Thursday night. 8 Lines and Daniel Variations went really well, despite some sound issues. So Percussion also offered up Nagoya Marimbas, and Four Organs, which, despite the legend stories of their premieres, I found really fascinating to listen to. The communication between the players was magical, and the M-Audio “organs” were awesome. As the patters got longer, the sample patches deteriorated, which was really cool. SIGNAL played with such intensity. Dare I say, the ladies of the string section played with the balls the Ojai Orchestra was lacking…I know, very unfeminist of me.

The thing about Reich’s music is that it is insanely difficult, and highly dependent on the mixing, which is why Steve usually mans the sound board. People come expecting to hear the same quality they get at home on their CD’s. That’s NEVER gonna happen, especially at an outdoor concert. For me, the kick out of watching his music, and live music in general, is the excitement and anticipation of something being created right before my eyes, especially something so inhumanly difficult! I say this because one snarky blogger commented on how he would rather keep his CD of the Daniel Variations. To that I say, you don’t come to a concert to hear great music, you come to see great music being performed, and with that comes all the good and the bad.

Sunday’s afternoon concert began with Steve Reich performing Clapping Music with Russ Hartenberger from NEXUS followed by two Ligeti Etudes expertly played by Eric Huebner, and Ionization with NEXUS and So Percussion. Ionization is not a piece you get to see too often, it takes a tremendous ensemble in skill and number, so seeing rockstars perform a monumental piece like Ionization was really thrilling. But the highlight to Sunday’s concerts was definitely Drumming, which Steve performed on also. I can’t even describe how truly awesome this piece is live, especially with NEXUS, the original performers, and So Percussion. I will echo another bloggers comment that it was sort of like watching the baton of minimalism being passed down from father to son.

The final concert came together somewhat, but not with any help from the festival orchestra. I had hoped that they would have a better stylistic understanding of the Baroque stuff, but no. the performance of the Pergolesi was pretty stale, despite great performances from Dawn Upshaw, who sounds great, and mezzo Kate Lindsay.

The orchestra did not get it together for the Tehillim. The strings were a mess, and missed a repeat in the second movement, and the winds missed an entrance. The singers had to ask where the monitors were, the sound guys were sitting on them!! We pulled it off, but David himself had to work really hard to keep the orchestra together, and he was seldom able to give cues to the singers. Lucky for him we were really on top of things, and obviously the percussion was amazing.

Not quite sure what to say about the orchestra. Pretty puzzling. On the east coast, most of my colleagues literally give up their day jobs to play this rep. This sort of unpreparedness just wouldn’t fly out here. Even more frustrating was the candid way that some of them joked about the difficulty of the piece, as in “the whole thing’s in four, right??” Har-har. If it were me, and I were performing a new piece, I’d check it out before I played it, it’s not like you can’t buy a recording on i tunes for .99, right? Oy.

ps Dawn Upshaw definitely encouraged us to skip the after party to get In and Out Burgers instead! How cool is she?

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