Inon Barnatan. Courtesy La Jolla Music Society

By Barry Jagoda

Fans of La Jolla Music Society‘s popular SummerFest have an early opportunity to see and hear the kind of programming that will be brought to the world-class music festival by music director-designate Inon Barnatan, who is curating a three-part series this spring entitled Schubert’s Swan Song.

Based on the first of these concerts, held just before Easter, Barnatan is going to be a huge favorite with La Jolla audiences, including the many who come annually to San Diego for one of the globe’s top musical festivals.

In a discussion before the first concert, Barnatan opened up about Schubert and his own tastes in music, leaving the audience dazzled by this passionate 40-year-old, internationally recognized pianist who has strong feelings about his ability to bring to San Diego audiences the very best from around the world.

Choosing to open the series with a concert pianist even more renowned, Garrick Ohlsson, as the two played together in a “four-hand” Schubert creation, one could instantly see a musician and a musical director optimistic about plans for the coming two concerts, and for the entire summer of 2019. Then long-time SummerFest Music Director Jimmy Lin, always a favorite in La Jolla, will give way to Barnatan.

A measure of Barnatan’s exquisite taste in genre and in performers could be seen even more fully when he gave the stage over to Ohlsson for a 45-minute rendition of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A Major.

One may have wondered about the “coolness” of Ohlsson playing along the much younger Barnatan in the four-hands piece. Any question of passion, or reserve, was removed in Ohlsson’s breathtaking, by memory, solo performance. One should not have been surprised, with the immediate realization and high expectations that Barnatan will be delivering great performers and themes for the La Jolla Music Society in coming weeks and in coming years.

After an intermission Barnatan was back for Schubert’s splendid Trio in B-flat major, joined by Violinist Erin Keefe and Cellist Clive Greensmith.

Franz Schubert died at age 31 in 1828 after a year of composing which has remained a marvel to the classical music world. Thus the title of this spring’s series, focusing on a series of masterpieces, some of which audiences will have a chance to savor, next on April 14 and finally on May 19.

This spring’s three-part series takes place in comfortable Qualcomm Hall, with good enough acoustics, most suitable for a sizable audience but intimate enough for chamber music.

Barnatan will take the helm just as the La Jolla Music Society inaugurates its very own Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in the heart of La Jolla Village.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1979, Barnatan started playing the piano at the age of three after his parents discovered he had perfect pitch. He made his orchestral debut at 11 and his musical education connects him to some of the 20th century’s most illustrious pianists and teachers. Barnatan currently lives in a converted warehouse in Harlem in New York City.


Barry Jagoda, an award-winning broadcast journalist, was special assistant to President Carter for media and public affairs. 

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