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Ojai Music Festival opens with triumphant debuts — and a big scare

07.09.17
Jennifer Koh
San Diego Tribune

The 71st annual Ojai Music Festival opened Thursday with a triumphant debut — make that, several triumphant debuts — and a scare that silenced the cheering audience at the conclusion of the opening night concert at Libby Bowl.

Iyer’s “Trouble” explored a broad range of emotions and musical approaches with consistent wit and imagination. Even when employing specific strategies — from recurring minimalistic patterns to skittering flourishes that surely would have made Edgard Varèse smile — Iyer put his own stamp on the music.
In Koh, who combines dazzling virtuosity and deep emotional conviction, he had an exceptional solo voice. (She will be featured in August during the 2017 edition of the La Jolla Music Society’s annual SummerFest.)
In Schick, he had a conductor who has long embraced and performed new music with boundless vigor and keen attention to detail and nuance. With further exposure, “Trouble” has the potential to become a showcase for violinists who share Koh’s ability, stamina and appetite for aural adventure.
Combined with “Emergence” and his luminous extended duet with trumpeter Smith, Thursday’s concert offered a nicely balanced display of just some of the facets of Iyer’s artistry.
Earlier Thursday evening, Chase and electronic sound manipulator Levy Lorenzo performed a free pop-up concert in the Libby Park Gazebo. The first of their two selections was George Lewis’ “Emergent,” a shape-shifting work that allowed Chase to demonstrate her exceptional range on the flute.
With her dramatic physical twists and turns, Chase seemed to be using her body language as much as her admirable breath control to play the flute. Lewis’ finely calibrated composition required pinpoint dynamic control and the ability to make extended techniques sound natural and effortless.
Chase, not surprisingly, was up to the challenge. Lorenzo carefully followed Lewis’ cues to electronically tweak and process the music in real time.
The result, much like the rest of the music heard Thursday, was by turns serious and playful, challenging and rewarding, provocative and profound. Read the rest of the review here