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July 12-18, 2006

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Andre Watts

Keyboard Figure: Renowned pianist Andre Watts will perform at this year's Midsummer Mozart festival.

Big Wigs

Summer festival season kicks off with Carmel Bach and Midsummer Mozart

By Scott MacClelland


SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVALS: if you can't get enough of them, clear your calendar from July 15 through Aug. 13, and budget for tickets, travel and accommodations. You'll be mostly on the road between San Francisco and Carmel, with significant stops in Atherton/Palo Alto, Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista. Whether you prefer Baroque, classical, 20th- or 21st century—and whether you group the lot under the sobriquet "cultivated" or not—you'll get the best of it at the Carmel Bach, Midsummer Mozart, Music@Menlo and Cabrillo festivals.

First out the gate is Carmel Bach, opening July 15, with three full weeks of programs, mostly at Carmel's Sunset Center Theater. Totally renovated, the place delivers an immediacy that it never had before, while preserving its original "look." There's not a bad seat in the house, and the stage area is now large enough for a full symphony orchestra or, in this case, Baroque orchestra and large chorus.

The seven main concerts, including the midweek Mexican Baroque program at Carmel Mission Basilica, will be performed three times over the course of the festival. But the numerous recitals, at Sunset, the nearby All Saints Church, the Carmel Mission and the Church in the Forest on the Pebble Beach campus of Robert Louis Stevenson School, continually rotate through different programming. For example, concertmaster Elizabeth Wallfisch will play the complete Rosary sonatas by Biber in three discrete performances at Monterey's La Mirada.

Music director Bruno Weil conducts three programs: opening night, including cantatas by J.S. Bach and Mozart and Frank Martin's Passacaille; Bach's dramatic St. John Passion on Sunday afternoon; and a Mozart sampler on Tuesday. Weil's artistic team takes responsibility for the rest of the Main concerts. Chorus director William Jon Gray leads the Mexican Baroque program (including a run-out to San Francisco's Mission Dolores on July 24) and Handel's chorally virtuosic Israel in Egypt. Wallfisch is in charge of a program of Vivaldi concertos, while harpsichordist Andrew Arthur will lead concerti by Bach and Handel.

"Mozart had the biggest emotional palette with the most economical means at his disposal of any composer I know of," says George Cleve, founder and music director of Midsummer Mozart, the festival that uniquely tours just two programs to four disparate venues: Mission Santa Clara, San Francisco's Herbst Theatre, Gundlach Bundschu Winery (outdoors) in Sonoma and First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

The instrumentally lavish "Posthorn" Serenade is coupled with that spare early masterpiece, the Concerto in E-flat, K. 271, featuring the superb pianist Andre Watts, July 20-23. "Mozart played this concerto throughout his life," says Cleve, "composing two and even three versions of their solo cadenzas."

The following weekend, July 27 through 30, Cleve conducts Mozart's sublime last three symphonies that he describes as "like the three acts of an opera" for their amazing variety. He promises to dedicate the entire festival to the memory of longtime collaborator and friend Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who recently passed away.

Next week, we'll look forward to Music@Menlo and the Cabrillo festivals.


For festival schedules and ticket details for the Carmel Bach Festival call 831.624.2046 or see www.bachfestival.org; for Midsummer Mozart, call 415.627.9145 or see www.midsummermozart.org.


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