This season’s classical calendar in Santa Barbara is all about the Summer Festival at the Music Academy of the West (musicacademy.org). This glorious festival is the West Coast’s premiere classical music event, and it all takes place either at the academy’s stunning Montecito campus or in the historic theaters of Santa Barbara’s downtown arts district. The concerts range from intimate to elaborate, and the music programming includes substantial explorations of classical, baroque, and modern compositions. Things get underway with masterclasses beginning Monday, June 22, and mostly conducted in one of three places on campus-Hahn Hall, Lehmann Hall, or Singher Studio. If you already know about the Masterclass program, then they need no introduction, but if you have never been, this is the summer to go. Some highlights include Marilyn Horne‘s Introduction of the 2009 Voice and Vocal Piano Fellows on Wednesday, June 24, in Hahn Hall and a Piano Chamber Masterclass with academy stalwart Jerome Lowenthal on Thursday, June 25, in Lehmann Hall.
The Granada Theatre welcomes the Academy Festival Orchestra and guest conductor Larry Rachleff on Saturday, June 27, for the first of the always spectacular Festival Orchestra events. For aficionados of symphony orchestra conducting, the festival is a great opportunity to see some of the world’s top practitioners in action with an all-star student orchestra. This season’s other guest maestros include Peter Oundjian on Saturday, July 18, at the Granada and Baroque specialist Nicholas McGegan for A Baroque Evening at First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, August 8. The season ends on a high note with Leonard Slatkin at the Granada on Saturday, August 15.
No summer would be complete without visiting artists, and the Music Academy of the West, as always, has them in abundance. Expect them to pop up from time to time alongside the faculty at the Tuesdays @ 8 events taking place at the Lobero Theatre beginning on June 30. The first Visiting Artist’s Concert is on Sunday, July 5, at the Loberoand features Rachleff conducting and pianist Christopher Taylor, who will play Mozart as well as his specialty, the music of Olivier Messiaen. Taylor blew people away with his solo recital last summer, so this appearance is not to be missed.
The Concerto Competition is an audience favorite. The games begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 11, at Hahn Hall, and they don’t stop until 5:30 that afternoon, so bring a picnic and enjoy the magnificent gardens of Miraflores during the midday break. The Marilyn Horne Foundation Vocal Competition follows a similar day-long format on Saturday, July 25, also at Hahn Hall. That night at the Lobero, the winner of the Concerto Competition will join forces with guest conductor Alexander Mickelthwate for the prize recital.
No season at Miraflores would be complete without a visit from the Tak¡cs Quartet, scheduled to appear on Tuesday, July 28, at the Lobero, and in a String Chamber Masterclasson Friday, July 31, at Lehmann Hall.
The Music Academy will stage a full opera: Mignon, by the French Romantic composer Ambroise Thomas. Performances are at the Lobero on Friday, August 7, and Sunday, August 9. George Manahan, music director of the New York City Opera, will conduct and academy veteran Casey Stangl will direct. There are many more activities and concerts happening at the Music Academy of the West this summer, so please look forward to our continuing coverage.