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Arts & Culture

Music: La Jolla SummerFest Cheat Sheet

Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann

The problem: World-famous classical musicians and composers are in San Diego for the the La Jolla Music Society's 2010 SummerFest concert series, and you need some sparkling factoids to drop during cocktails.

The solution? Culture Lust's "2010 SummerFest Cheat Sheet." Learn all about secret affairs (from 200+ years ago), ancient instruments (from 2000+ years ago) and the intersection between MacBooks and performance.

FRIDAY, August 6th: String Spectacular


Opening night offers a “String Spectacular” featuring SummerFest’s music director, Taiwanese-American violinist Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, cellist Lynn Harrell, and the SummerFest Chamber Orchestra, along with the Borromeo String Quartet.

Did you know?

The Borromeo String Quartet is famous for being innovators in using technology in their performances. They created specially designed music stands for their MacBooks and use FootTimeTM, a “pdf score-reading tool that turns pages with a USB pedal.” Check out the technology in action in the clip below, from a performance earlier this year for WNYC’s "Soundcheck:"

Borromeo String Quartet on WNYC

Borromeo and the rest will be playing works by Elgar, Haydn, Popper, Casals and Mozart.

SATURDAY, August 7th: "Age of Enlightenment"


The Borromeo Quartet returns to perform works by Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Bach, alongside keyboardist Anthony Newman and the Hausmann Quartet.

Did you know?

Mr. Newman is known as both the "High Priest of the Harpsichord" (according to Time magazine) and the "High Priest of the High Priest of Bach" (according to Wynton Marsalis). Basically, he is the man when it comes to Baroque music. If you are ever in Bedford, New York, you ought to go to St. Matthew's Episcopal church where Mr. Newman finds time to be church organist and choirmaster. Here he is doing just that:

Anthony Newman Performs J.S. Bach's Fugue in G-Minor

SUNDAY, August 8th: "Masterworks and Premieres"

Featuring Newman, the Borromeo String Quartet, and Harrell performing works by Newman, Bright Sheng, and Rachmaninoff.

Did you know?

This exciting night features a world premiere: Anthony Newman's piece "Sonata Populaire." Newman - who you already know as the High Priest of Harpsichord (if you've been paying attention), is also a composer in his own right. Not all contemporary classical music is post-modern: Newman's work is described as "exotically gratifying, important, and traditional." Check out the example below.

Anthony Newman Performs His Composition Fantasia Te Deum

TUESDAY, August 10th: Schumann I: A Poet's Love

Russell Steinberg will start the evening off with part one of his three lecture series on the German composer. Lynn Harrell, Victor Santiago Asuncion, Kelly Markgraf, Ken Noda, Paul Neubauer, Carter Brey, and Joseph Kalichstein will perform.

Did you know?

Since there is more than one Schumann evening programmed during SummerFest, let's start with some colorful tidbits from the Romantic composer's life:

*He intended to be a professional pianist until a hand injury forced him to reconsider, leading him to composition and music criticism.

*He married his piano teacher's daughter - after an extensive legal and personal tussle with said teacher.

*He spent the last two years of his life in an insane asylum.

Stay tuned for more Schumann. But first...

WEDNESDAY, August 11th: An Evening With Emanuel Ax

An all Schubert evening with Mr. Ax, Mr. Kalichstein, as well as Chee Yun, Paul Neubauer, Carter Brey, and Chris Hanulik.

Did you know?

Mr. Ax is known as one of the foremost pianists alive and often performs with close friend Yo-Yo Ma. After seeing Mr. Ma's debut concert in New York, Mr. Ax confided to his then-girlfriend that he hoped he'd get to work with the famous cellist. Soon after, the two met in the cafeteria at Juilliard and hit it off.

FRIDAY, August 13th: SummerFest Gala

If you're at the gala (details here), you now have some tidbits to chat about over canapes...

SATURDAY, August 14th: Chopin Celebration: From the Salon to the Opera House

Carter Brey, pianist Christopher O’Riley and flutist Demarre McGill come together to illustrate the breadth of Chopin's work.

Did you know?

Mr. McGill, a flutist, is a local luminary - he performs with the San Diego Symphony -and runs a local chamber music project called The Art of Elan, which attempts to make classical music accessible to new audiences. McGill is also the older brother of classical clarinetist Anthony McGill.

TUESDAY, August 17th: Schumann II, Passionate Fire

Tuesday's performance (which includes works by Schubert and also Brahms) with violinist Lin, violist Cynthia Phelps, pianist Joseph Kalichstein and oboist Allan Vogel.

Did you know?

A 20-year-old Brahms knocked on Schumanns' door unannounced, and his playing so impressed Schumann and his wife Clara that the young man stayed for weeks. Schumann championed the young Brahms in print, calling him the "Chosen One... destined to give ideal expression to the times." There's certainly no pressure when your mentor tells you that - none at all - nope.

WEDNESDAY, August 18th: An Evening With Gabriela Montero

Ms. Montero - a pianist - will be performing works by Gershwin, Granados, and Ginastra but, better yet, will also be improvising to themes suggested by the audience.

Did you know?

The Venezuelan Ms. Montero is famous for her improvisations. She kept her talent under wraps throughout her musical training, until Martha Argerich - the Argentine great - heard her improvise and insisted she perform that way publicly. In the New York Times her performances were described this way: "no matter how complex the variations, the original melody always emerges triumphantly from a musical tapestry that might weave blues, jazz, tango and Debussy into a multi-hued framework.”

Here, Montero improvises on Bach's Goldberg variations.

Gabriela Montero Improvising a Theme by Bach

FRIDAY, August 20th: SummerFest Commissions

Wu Man joins David Cossin, Susan Ung, and Brett Dean to perform pieces commissioned especially for this year's SummerFest.

Did you know?

Wu Man plays the pipa. What on earth is the pipa? You might guess it is a kind of pipe from the name - you'd be wrong. The pipa is actually an ancient four-stringed instrument from China. It first emerged in the Qing dynasty (that is, 221-206 BC). The name itself describes how to play it: Pi means to push the fingers from right to left; Pa describes the opposite motion.

Observe - here Ms. Man plays the pipa:

Wu Man plays the Pipa

SUNDAY, August 21: Chopin's Paris

Mezzo-Soprano Charlotte Hellekant, violist Cynthia Phelps, and the Orion String Quartet perform works by Rossini, Chopin, Lizst, Schumann and Mendelssohn.

Did you know?

One of the pieces performed tonight is Liszt's "At the Grave of Richard Wagner" - which at least sounds as if it should have a fabulous story behind it, and indeed does. Liszt and Wagner were great friends, a friendship that survived even Wagner's scandalous affair with Liszt's illegitimate daughter, Cosima. When the two married, great friends became father and son-in-law, and remained one another's champions throughout.

SUNDAY, August 22nd: Debussy's Paris

Works performed by Debussy, Hahn, and Ravel.

Did you know?

Debussy's "Danses sacrees et profane," now a classic in the repertoire for harp, started as a promotional ploy. In the early 20th century, the instrument company Pleyel approached Debussy to compose a "test piece" that would demonstrate their new chromatic harp. The harp never became popular, but Debussy's piece lived on.

TUESDAY, August 24th Schumann III: A Triumphant Decade

Pianists Julie Coucheron and Orion Weiss join the Orion String Quartet for a final night of Schumann's deep cuts.

Did you know?

Schumann's "Fantasiestücke," (on the docket for this performance) is dedicated by the composer to the beautiful 18-year-old Scottish pianist, Anna Laidlaw, with whom he supposedly had a "flirtation." Based on a collection of novellas, the piece chronicles the conflict between two characters - the dreamy Eusebius and the passionate Florestan.

WEDNESDAY, August 25th: An Evening with Vladimir Feltsman

Pianist Feltsman performs an evening of Kissine, Chopin, and Arensky.

Did you know?

Feltsman often plays on the fortepiano, which is the precursor to the modern grand. The fortepiano was invented by Italian Bartomeo Cristofiori in the early 18th century.

FRIDAY, August 27th: Finale - The Twin Titans

SummerFest 2010 comes to a close with an evening of two of the greats: Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

Some closing words from the Titans themselves:

Said the passionate Mr. Beethoven, "Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life."

And Mr. Tchaikovsky? "Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy."

SummerFest 2010 runs from August 6th to August 27th. The official schedule, with further information, can be found here.