“There are new-music meccas like California’s Cabrillo, where all the music is current.” —Tom Huizenga, NPR’s Deceptive Cadence
“Not surprisingly, it’s another embarrassment of riches from the 53-year-old festival dedicated solely to contemporary orchestral music.” —Tom Huizenga, NPR’s Deceptive Cadence
“Like a well-oiled machine that keeps adding shiny new parts, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music rolls into town for the next two weeks, fully loaded and ready to amaze. Think of the entire festival—which opens officially on Friday, Aug. 7 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium—as sonic seduction for inquiring minds that are not completely sure how to navigate contemporary music. By now maestra Marin Alsop and company have got the beat down. After all, this is the 53rd season. Gifted newcomers, vintage virtuosi, world premieres, commissioned works and that atmospheric finale in the acoustically sacred Mission San Juan Bautista—here is a formula that never plays as formulaic.” —Christina Waters, Good Times Weekly
“The Festival is a chance to hear one of the finest orchestras anywhere, magically materializing on our shores for two blazing weeks of new, challenging music. Expect fireworks for the ears!” —Christina Waters, Good Times Weekly
“Marin Alsop, the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is a tireless champion of the new at this contemporary music celebration.” —Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times
“In her 24 years at the helm, Marin Alsop has brought both cohesion and a rationale to northern California’s oldest contemporary music festival. Those qualities, plus a trio of recent and appealing orchestral essays, pervaded the opening concert of the 53-year-old celebration on Friday evening. Not only has the conductor established ongoing relationships with composers of all ages, she remains fiercely loyal to many of them. The festival orchestra, recruited annually from around the globe, demonstrates a comparable fealty to Alsop. Performances here often burn with conviction.” —Allan Ulrich, Financial Times
“One of the world’s most prominent music festivals” —Wallace Baine, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“It’s really prominent and prestigious,” said New York-based composer Missy Mazzoli. “It’s really the only orchestral festival that I can think of that supports new music to the degree that it does.” (as interviewed by Wallace Baine, Santa Cruz Sentinel)
“To adventurous music fans in Santa Cruz County and the Bay Area, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music represents tradition. It’s been part of the musical calendar for more than 50 years, nearly as old as the ‘granddaddy’ of West Coast musical festivals, the Monterey Jazz Festival.
But to many outside Northern California, Cabrillo represents something else entirely. It is an annual two-week laboratory of new music steeped in the rhythms and concerns of the contemporary world presided over by ‘mad scientist’ Marin Alsop, one of the nation’s most dynamic figures in contemporary classical music.” —Wallace Baine, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“In its 53rd season, Santa Cruz’s annual Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is looking younger than ever. Since its early days under its guiding spirits, Lou Harrison and Robert Hughes, the annual summer extravaganza has provided a snapshot of today’s leading composers. But in recent years, music director Marin Alsop has also been turning the festival’s ear toward tomorrow’s voices.” —Brett Campbell, San Francisco Classical Voice
“Great theater…and assertive music, too.” —Paul Hertelendy, ARTSSF.com
“The final weekend of the Cabrillo Festival is inevitably invigorating, with one new orchestral piece almost atop the other, sometimes with the ink barely dry.
This is Music Director Marin Alsop’s baby, now in her 24th season on the summer podium here. Here she and the devotees can feast on contemporary sounds, created by figures either well-known (like Philip Glass) or otherwise.
The esprit de corps in her festival orchestra is remarkable, tackling totally unfamiliar West-Coast-premiere music with relish on Aug. 15, allowing new young talent to emerge. The personnel are geographically diverse; the 17 principal players hail from 13 different states.
There’s now a staggering quantity of young symphonic composers around the U.S., I believe unprecedented in world history. They are like dedicated Olympic decathlon athletes, having mastered the many parameters of their craft and brought them all into harmony. What I don’t see however is that distinctive, champion-level uniqueness, setting them apart from the others, making an individualistic statement, along the lines of, say, Kernis, Saariaho, Heggie and the like.
Not yet, anyway. But they’ve reached the lower rungs of the ladder, they have interacted closely with veteran conductors (like Alsop), and there is still time—aye, there’s the rub.” —Paul Hertelendy, ARTSSF.com
“Alsop led the demanding repertory with her accustomed professional control, annotating briefly and disarmingly… Her orchestra under Concertmaster Justin Bruns was effective, and once again the five percussionists were among Cabrillo’s leading lights.” —Paul Hertelendy, ARTSSF.com
“Meanwhile—and as if new music weren’t its own aphrodisiac for lovers of the Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz—the introduction of a new instrument, the aluphone, cemented the deal Friday night at Civic Auditorium.” —Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay
“Currie darted back and forth, swapping out mallets and sticks, to keep in balance with the roiling orchestral fabric. This maelstrom occupied the first third of the piece until an outburst finally gave Currie respite as a quiet central interlude unfolded. Some full stops then welcomed in a bassoon solo with eerie strings in support. Brass fanfares interrupted, cowbells ruminated, and a lush string passage filled the room. Currie’s Jamaican steel gave way to a viola solo with harp and piano. The brass signaled the rebuilding of power and energy. A siren sounded while the strings scurried. A stentorian chorale arose on the brass while Currie returned for a final display on the aluphone.” —Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay (reviewing the U.S. premiere of James MacMillan’s Percussion Concerto No.2)
“Mason Bates’ 35-minute nocturnal Anthology of Fantastic Zoology served up Friday’s high point. The spectacularly imaginative orchestrations were matched by the formal clarity and transparency of the textures, always much desired but rarely pulled off as well as Bates has done here… Alsop’s orchestra was spectacular!”—Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay
“Epiclesis is a single movement concerto for trumpet and sizable orchestra. As stated, Epiclesis translates into invocation during the Eucharistic section of the Mass. The flutter tongue solo trumpet opening against an airy, serene backdrop that suddenly exploded into a huge sound mass gave notice to the massive sound that would soon develop. Moments of brash, chaotic textures emphasized by a metal thunder sheet, brass at its highest register filled the Mission and most likely the lovely rolling hills outside. Two additional trumpets were positioned to the sides and half way into the Mission creating a triangular antiphonal trumpet go around that ended with soloist Helseth slowly walking down the center aisle and out of the main doors of the Mission and as she reached her exit the door slammed shut that caused the audience and Director Alsop to turn and smile. This was indeed a superb concert that ended the 2015 season. A special, well deserved round of applause was given to the all-star orchestra for a wonderful, artistic experience!” —Joe Sekon, Peninsula Reviews
“’It’s a Mecca event that you watch with awe from a distance.’ So said composer Jonathan Newman talking about the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.” —Heather J. Morris, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“The quiet opening of the pulsating chimes had the audience holding its collective breath, so charged was the atmosphere.” —Heather J. Morris, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“But at this festival, it’s not just the concerts that are open to the public. From day one open rehearsals welcome visitors to stay for five minutes, or the full two and a half hours. These provide an opportunity to see the way in which problems of performance as worked out during rehearsal are solved by the time of the concert. The orchestra receives the scores one month in advance, and many of the pieces require virtuosic performances from all the members. This year for the first time one of the orchestra, Tim Munro, the principal flutist, gave a fascinating insider’s guide to how the orchestra members are selected, how the pieces are selected, and the audience was given a rare peek into the sometimes confusing world of ‘orchestral etiquette.’” —Heather J. Morris, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“For up-and-coming conductors, it’s an opportunity to work with a world-class orchestra. Each year three works by emerging composers are selected from the hundreds submitted and two or three conductors-in-training conduct each piece. James Ross, a member of the conducting faculty at Julliard, serves as mentor to the young conductors at the Cabrillo Festival and the guidance and teaching that Alsop and he provide an experience never to be forgotten.” —Heather J. Morris, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“Soaring temperatures might have been the talk of the town in Santa Cruz last weekend, but the orchestra at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music raised the temperature yet a few more degrees with their impassioned outpouring last Saturday night at the Civic Auditorium. The orchestra was on fire, producing their best performance of the season and the audience was highly vocal and enthusiastic.” —Heather J. Morris, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“Tine Thing Helseth’s performance of “Epiclesis,” James MacMillan’s trumpet concerto was nothing short of virtuosic. Two antiphonal trumpets, doubling with piccolo trumpets created a surround sound experience for the packed audience. The Gregorian chant on which the piece is based is seldom to the fore but is overlaid with dramatic explosions from percussion and brass.
The fast ecstatic dance towards the end had many the orchestra members and Helseth herself brimming with smiles. Everyone was having fun, lots of it. At the end of the two-week festival, no one was left in any doubt of the passionate dedication of these musicians, both performers and composers at the Cabrillo Festival, one of the top incubators of new music in the world.” —Heather J. Morris, Santa Cruz Sentinel
“One recurring thumbprint of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music under longtime Music Director Marin Alsop is the sheer level of energy on display. Alsop favors music that packs a wallop — rhythmically, dynamically, even theatrically — and she gets performances out of the festival’s orchestra that reflect that sort of razzmatazz.
This year’s opening salvo, a pair of high-powered concerts over the weekend in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, could have been designed to illustrate that point. Even the weaker works on the schedule tended to be mostly big and muscular in their approach, and the successful ones were practically bursting with ideas.
It was the kind of weekend, in other words, that left a listener feeling pretty stoked. Good music can do that.”—Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
“The vividness of Bates’ material is matched by the explosive vibrancy of his orchestral palette, and on Friday night Alsop led her forces through a performance of utmost virtuosity. This was obviously a score whose challenges served to bring out the best in these players.” —Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
“Here’s a challenge for the novelty betting industry: How to make book on which piece will get the most applause at the 2015 Cabrillo Music Festival? It’s not easy. The crowd loves almost anything Music Director Marin Alsop puts in front of them. Almost every piece has something unusual that could push listeners’ I-love-it buttons, and the players and soloists get better every year.” —Jeff Dunn, San Francisco Classical Voice
“…of all the fine compositions the audience enjoyed, it was Huang Ruo’s The Color Yellow on Saturday that sent the crowd the wildest, thank to [sheng] soloist Wu Wei… Novelty is one thing, but it’s the artistry that brings folks to their feet. Huang’s dramatic composition and Wu’s mastery and passionate gestures are what opened the floodgates of appreciation.” —Jeff Dunn, San Francisco Classical Voice
“I’ll wager on one sure thing: that my jaw will drop again next weekend at the excellence of Alsop and her team. Somehow they bring to perfection the swim-to-the-Farralons difficulty of performing so many new works at one time.” —Jeff Dunn, San Francisco Classical Voice
“James MacMillan’s Percussion Concerto No. 2 raised the roof, and David T. Little’s ‘Haunted Topography’ meditated on grief. But it was Mason Bates’ ‘Anthology of Fantastic Zoology’ that captivated the audience at the season-opening concert of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
Conducted by music director Marin Alsop, Bates’ 2015 concerto for orchestra made its West Coast premiere as the scintillating highlight of Friday’s program at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Attractively scored and played with tremendous verve by Alsop and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, it got this year’s two-week festival off to a beguiling start.” —Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News
“Much of Bates’ previous music has been preoccupied with electronica, but here he fearlessly mines the sounds of the traditional orchestra —a sweet clarinet duet to evoke nymphs, audacious brass and percussion for the gryphon.
Alsop gave it a go-for- broke performance marked by big, muscular outbursts; a pair of violins stationed on upper tiers contributed to the surround- sound effect. But some of the finest moments were quiet ones — ‘Sirens,’ a luminous slow movement, was especially arresting. Earlier in the evening, Alsop called the Cabrillo players ‘the greatest orchestra in the world for contemporary music.’ In this performance, they certainly lived up to the description.” —Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News