As the 2018 Ojai Music Festival nears, anticipation mounts for what promises to be an exceptional season under the music directorship of Moldovan-Austrian violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Although she has yet to achieve the name recognition in this country of other recent Ojai directors such as Vijay Iyer and Mark Morris, Kopatchinskaja comes with a reputation for technically superb playing and passionate engagement with all kinds of music. In her quest for immediacy, Kopatchinskaja willingly crosses boundaries — stylistic, but also cultural and chronological. Whether she is performing the medieval music of 14th-century French composer Guillaume de Machaut or the violin concerto of 20th-century master György Ligeti, Kopatchinskaja puts her utmost effort into fashioning concerts that are vivid with possibility. To this end, she has assembled an extraordinary team of collaborators for Ojai, including the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the JACK Quartet, theater director Maria Ursprung, and soloists Markus Hinterhäuser, Amy Yang, and Anthony Romaniuk. According to Matthew Sadler, principal trumpet with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Kopatchinskaja’s wide-ranging yet scrupulous process of preparation “makes everything contemporary.”
Born into a family of professional musicians steeped in both classical music and traditional Moldovan folk, Kopatchinskaja pursued her violin training in Vienna and in Bern, after which she quickly became a favored soloist with such distinguished European orchestras as the philharmonics of London, Berlin, and Vienna. Her approach to the classical repertoire is solidly in the tradition of Fritz Kreisler: warm and expressive yet exuding a powerful intellect and demonstrating masterful technique. In 2009, she released a recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major that unleashed her formidable musicianship in the service of a significantly new interpretation of the piece with several original cadenzas, including a scintillating first movement duet with the timpani derived from Beethoven’s piano transcription of the piece. In the decade since its release, this scholarly innovation has caught on; the Santa Barbara audience for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s (OAE) concert at the Granada on February 13, 2018, thrilled to a similarly sourced cadenza from Nicola Benedetti and OAE timpanist Adrian Bending.
At the Ojai Festival, Kopatchinskaja will put her interpretation of the Beethoven violin concerto front and center on Thursday night as the finale of an evening-length program called Bye Bye Beethoven. Working with Ursprung and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, she has crafted a sequence of works by Charles Ives, Johann Sebastian Bach, Joseph Haydn, John Cage, and György Kurtág designed to lend new resonance to Beethoven’s iconic composition.
On Saturday evening, the same mash-up method will be applied to Dies Irae, a recent composition about global warming by the Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya. In addition to the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, that concert will feature the JACK Quartet and pianist Romaniuk. Finally, on Sunday in the early evening, Kopatchinskaja will perform the work for which she is best known, the Violin Concerto of György Ligeti, along with a suite version of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat, in honor of that composition’s 100th anniversary. Earlier on Sunday, the performer’s parents, Viktor and Emilia Kopatchinsky, will participate in a concert that pairs Moldovan folk music with compositions by Kurtág, Ligeti, and Enescu.
In keeping with Ojai tradition, the four days of the festival will be packed from early morning until late night with rare musical experiences. For example, at 8 a.m. on Sunday, the JACK Quartet will perform the American premiere of the String Quartet No. 9 of Georg Friedrich Haas, a work the score of which demands that it be performed in complete darkness. Rise, but don’t shine for that. The JACK Quartet will also play one of the festival’s latest shows, a free community concert of renewal at 10:30 on Friday night in Libbey Bowl featuring John Luther Adams’s Everything That Rises. This will cap an evening that also features a world premiere by American composer Michael Hersch. For sheer inventiveness and unpredictability, nothing compares to the Ojai Music Festival.
The Ojai Music Festival runs Thursday-Sunday, June 7-10, in and around the Libbey Bowl (210 S. Signal St., Ojai). For tickets and information, call 646-2053 or visit ojaifestival.org.