Inon Barnatan practices with the SummerfFest Chamber Orchestra.
Inon Barnatan practices with the SummerfFest Chamber Orchestra. Courtesy LJMS

La Jolla’s three-week-long, world-renowned summer music festival came to a brilliant finale, with memorable performances of Bach, Mozart and Vivaldi by the SummerFest Chamber Orchestra.

At the finale on Friday night, patrons extended rave applause for violinists James Ehnes, Augustin Hadelich and Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, who has completed his 18-year tenure as festival music director, but returned to play.

For their presentation of Mozart’s Concerto For Two Pianos and Orchestra, Inon Barnatan, the world-class pianist, who has just concluded a first, highly successful term as festival music director, was joined by pianist Jonathan Biss.

Biss was back from playing flawlessly earlier last week, accompanying tenor Robin Tritscher in his moving singing of Schumann’s “Poet’s Love” on a night under the umbrella title “Love Stories.”

As a theme of the finale, the Festival Chamber Orchestra, under conductor (and harpsichordist) Nicholas McGegan, played in the “concerto grosso” style music from the 18th century.  In a concerto grosso, a small group of instruments and a larger group play in contrast to each another. The phrase is Italian for “big concerto.”

Also, as part of the finale evening, the orchestra presented innovative compositions by new American composers Andrew Norman, titled Gran Turismo, and Ellen Zwilich, titled Concerto Grosso 1985. It was characteristic of this year’s festival, which sought to perform new music and related art, without neglecting traditional chamber music.

Barnatan had promised such synergy. So the festival last week included two nights of dance and music, starring the famous Mark Morris Dance Group, on stage in the Baker-Baum Concert Hall at the The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, the new home of the La Jolla Music Society. Those evenings included the world premiere of “Arrows. Eros,” as well as other productions made famous in the world of dance.

As this year’s SummerFest came to a rousing conclusion, it was announced that Barnatan will return as music director next summer, for the next festival scheduled from July 31 through Aug. 21. A full schedule of the La Jolla Music Society’s musical offerings is available at

Barry Jagoda was an award-winning journalist at NBC News and CBS News, who later served in the White House as an assistant for President Jimmy Carter.