La Jolla SummerFest 2024: Thomas Adès and the British Connection

Inon Barnatan, Music Director of SummerFest, the La Jolla Music Society’s acclaimed annual late summer music festival, has announced an enticing array of musical offerings to be presented at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center July 26 to August 24, 2024.

Thomas Adès [photo (c.) Mathias Benguigui]

Central to every season’s programming is the composer-in-residence, and this year Thomas Adès returns in that role following his highly successful SummerFest residency in 2023. The noted British composer, pianist and conductor will premier several new works, perform Maurice Ravel’s La Valse for Two Pianos with Inon Barnatan, and curate an evening program at the Baker-Baum Concert Hall that includes Adès’ own work Forgotten Dances.

“I am in awe of Thomas Adès,” Barnatan stated in an interview with SanDiegoStory. “I think he is the premier composer among those who are writing today, and I was delighted when he expressed an interest to return to SummerFest. I find that his music is able to marry complexity and ingenuity without sacrificing expression and communication.”

Barnatan has titled SummerFest’s opening night program A Deal with the Devil. Following the more predictable musical offerings of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz and Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Violin Sonata, Adès will conduct a new interpretation of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat that will feature the participation of the British art ensemble The Paper Cinema.

“Their puppetry and hand-drawn animation will happen on stage in real time as the The Soldier’s Tale progresses—it will be like making a film in real time,” Barnatan explained. “But Stravinsky’s work is a very dark fairy tale, so this is an adult production—not at all a kid’s puppet show.”

Another British contribution to the year’s SummerFest is the a cappella octet VOCES8, an ensemble that specializes in contemporary music. “They have a huge following over the world,” Barnatan noted, “and on their touring schedule they make at least one tour each year to the U.S.A. For us they will also sing the Gabriel Fauré Requiem, but in its original chamber-sized instrumentation. Most audiences know the work in its later orchestral form, but our version will be much closer to the composer’s original concept.”

For an excursion into contemporary avant-garde, French-American jazz pianist and composer Dan Tepfer will bring his 2019 multimedia project Natural Machines to the JAI, a work that blends jazz improvisation with algorithmic composition. “We have worked to combine more jazz into the festival,” Barnatan explained.  “Dan’s piano, a Disklavier, can be programmed with the algorithms that he has selected that the piano then echoes in ways he determines.”

The unusual duo of pianist Conrad Tao and tap dancer Caleb Teicher made their local debut at The Conrad in February, 2022, and they return to La Jolla with a work commissioned by the La Jolla Music Society for SummerFest 2024. Other performers at SummerFest familiar to San Diego audiences include violinists Augustin Hadelich, Tessa Lark, Stefan Jackiw, Blake Pouliot, and James Ehnes; pianist Joyce Yang; cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Paul Wiancko, and clarinetist Anthony McGill.

The La Jolla Music Society will present SummerFest 2024 from July 26 through August 24, 2024, at La Jolla’s Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

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