An argument can be made that, despite the ample cultural riches in the 805, the Ojai Music Festival (June 9-12) garners the greatest respect beyond its area code — within its own specific realm. Unlike other 805 events, the festival is routinely covered by taste arbiters the New York Times and the New Yorker, with generally high praises. International forces and talents converge in this small, beautiful valley location.
The caveat is that the festival’s particular “world” is a somewhat esoteric, focused primarily on contemporary and modern classical music. Legendary names and historical cachet precede the festival’s legacy, sporting such famed music figures as Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Eric Dolphy, Elliott Carter, Esa-Pekka Salonen, multiple visits from Pierre Boulez, great American composer John Adams, and countless other musicians-who -matter.
Aucoin also has had tentacles in Santa Barbara, as part of the Music Academy of the West in recent years. In an interview, he spoke about feeling at home at the Music Academy in a period that the institution placed more focus on contemporary music than in years past. Still, Aucoin has no new music-obsessive blinders on, keeping a wide open approach across the continuum of western musical evolution.
The 2022 program is enriched by new music by young living composers, but the program also covers a gamut from a focus on late Black minimalist composer Julius Eastman to Sunday evening’s assortment including Vivaldi and Schubert. Schubert’s “Ständchen” precedes the festival closer, Eastman’s “Stay on It” — a reasonable enough mantra for this dedicated, forward-leaning festival.
Apart from luring die-hard contemporary music fans, the Ojai Music Festival also extends appeal to more casual observers who like the idea of spending some leisurely, pre-summer quality time in the embracing environs of this coveted destination outpost. Beauty of place and cultural adventurism make a happy pact come Ojai Festival time. It’s that time. ojaifestival.org
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