He would have loved this one

One concert from the 65th annual Ojai Festival earlier this month, celebrating the reopening of Libbey Bowl, also celebrated, as each successive Festival does, founder Lawrence Morton’s commitment to preserving the primacy and intimacy of contemporary and other classical musics.

Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

     Virtuoso violinist and conductor Richard Tognetti and the virtuoso Australian Chamber Orchestra played a program that would have piqued Lawrence’s fancy and caused him to light up another Gauloises in delight. Lawrence would have been further delighted to know that Festival in the 2011 is not only alive and well, but equally pure and committed in its thinking. He might even have loved the way iTunes has fueled the taste for contemporary composers.

     Lawrence would certainly have been impressed with the positioning of Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto alongside Schoenberg’s Verklaerte Nach and his belief in both composers (neither of whom was leading the hit parade 60 years ago) would have been confirmed by the Aussies’ brilliant performances, both pieces played as if for the first time. He would loved the enigmatic, lightly filigreed piece by the always enigmatic Giacinto Scelsi; he would laughed at how the Scelsi segued into the generally more dour than obscure Schnittke without anyone in the audience catching on. I like to think that he have been thrilled and excited by Tognetti’s demonic raping of the famous Paganini Caprice.

Morton (1904-1982), for five decades assisted in the direction of the Ojai Festival.

     The new Libbey Bowl and the Ojai Festival old-timers, like me, may rightly pine for the rustic atmosphere of the former Libbey Bowl setup, when two huge trees provided authentic artistic charm and ample nesting places for the birds and bees. Now they have been removed and the front area covered with green netting. The wooden benches have been replaced by surprisingly agreeable green plastic chairs. The sight lines are now superb, however the situation is dire for the general admission folks on the grassy slope behind the reserved section; more money is needed before anybody up there can see the stage. On the other hand, the grass still a nice place to have a picnic or other affair, and the price is reasonable.

     The stage itself, which also used to be rustic, has now morphed into a more urban but still modest design, with four large trees positioned semi-theatrically in anonymous pots around the stage. The sound from seats in aisle “S” on the right side was clinically precise and mostly warm, but the immediacy of the old days was slightly muted.

Nestled in one of the world’s great wine-growing regions, Maribor is the Alpine capital of Slovenia and is on the Drava River.

     With the Ojai Festival under his belt, Tognetti has the ten-day Maribor Festival slated to open September 1 and run 10 glorious days. Maribor is the Alpine capital of Slovenia, hosting the women’s slalom and giant slalom races for the Alpine Skiing World Cup. It’s also the home town of former Laker Saša Vujačić (who’s now engaged to Maria Sharapova). The whole aesthetic is like a knight’s in shining armor game: Maribor’s coat of arms features a white dove flying downwards above a white castle with two towers and a portcullis on a red shield.

     Mazda’s zoom, zoom, zoom makes classical music go boom, boom, boom because over the weekend, I made two round trips to Ojai in a MazdaSpeed3 hatchback, which was provided by Mazda so that I could test whether the car’s top of the line Bose audio system could handle classical music pressure.

     The car’s incredibly precise control and turbo-charged surge made getting to Ojai a breeze, and driving through the valley’s passes, gorges and gently sliding curves a totally awesome experience. When the engine wasn’t busy revving its heart out accelerating up a hill and we could just cruise, the sound (at any speed) was smooth and rich. The car’s media center beamed up my iPod within nanoseconds of its entering the car. The music sounded as beautiful and sexy as the sound of the exhaust. I reviewed the following new CDs using the Mazda:

     Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Piano Concertos 1 & 4 Simon Trpceski, piano. Royal Liverpool Phil/Vasily Petrenko. (Avie).

     Each of these young virtuosos is dynamite on his own and coupled together in Rachmaninoff, they make romantic love in every musical bar and bite, and the engineers have captured it as if it were Mouse Hall playing at the Hollywood Bowl.

     Elgar In The South, Introduction & Allegro, Enigma Variations. Classic recordings by Sir Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. (Classics for Pleasure).

     Inspired by his visit to the Italian seaside town of Alassio, In the South been a touchstone of recording excellence since the 1950s, when EMI’s 1956 monaural recording of the 20-minute symphonic poem revealed breathtaking new depths of spatial dimensionality and exciting new aspects of dynamic range. By providing untold of pleasures to music lovers in need of new equipment, recordings like these were a great spur to the brilliant young UK audio industry. Every audiophile played the music over and over again, checking out how well their system handled the bass eruptions at 6 minutes and the startlingly-real lines of perspective following shortly thereafter; how sweetly their tweeters tweeted and mid-range crooned in the gorgeous viola and French horn solos at 10 minutes.

The Vittes Report – Laurence Vittes is a 40-year veteran as a music and performing arts critic, providing his expertise to the Gramophone, Hollywood Reporter, Strings, HuffPost Arts, Music Web International, Audiophile Audition and the Art-to-Art Palette Journal and its affiliates.  In addition, he co-hosts with Alexey Steele the Classical Underground concerts in Torrance, California, 20 miles south of Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Published by on June 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Marketplace Guide, Two Sisters Bookmart. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment for “He would have loved this one”

  1. I find this to be a real “fireworks” of a review; in fact, almost poetry in motion. I sensed from his report, Mr. Vittes was in his own ‘Classical 7th Heaven’ as he motored the Gold Coast highways in that gorgeous red machine (Mazda) as he tested the “…Bose audio system…to the Ojai Festival to see if it “…could handle classical music pressure.” Again it is obvious to me, Vittes was victorious.

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