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Cabrillo Music Festival News & Reviews

News & Reviews


Click the provided links to download the following 2013 PDF article collections:


Including Carolyn Kuan, Brad Lubman, Derek Bermel, Thomas Newman, Enrico Chapela, Anna Clyne, Sean Friar, Gregory Smith, Kronos Quartet, Johannes Moser, Emil Jonason,


Dust Dances, Fire Music, In the Blue Room with Kronos Quartet, Unstuck, Music at the Mission: Night Ferry


Dust Dances, Fire Music, In the Blue Room with Kronos Quartet


Unstuck, Music at the Mission: Night Ferry


"There’s no concert series anywhere where such a high percentage of the music is written by people still breathing — even walking around in front of you, taking in the mellow sights of a Santa Cruz summer." Jeff Dunn, San Francisco Classical Voice | read more...

"Clyne is an artist of uncommon power, depth and intelligence who brings a genius quality to her 'Night Ferry.' ... It is a galvanic, sophisticated and multi-textured composition, performed brilliantly by the Cabrillo orchestra." Barbara Rose Shuler, Monterey County Herald | read more...

"The final program in this year’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music seemed designed to prove that modernism, the ethos that dominated classical music in the early- and mid- 20th century, is not only alive and well, it’s kicking and bawling lustily." David Bratman, San Francisco Classical Voice | read more...

"In case you doubted it, the level of instrumental virtuosity has taken a giant step up, witness flutist Adam Walker’s premiere of Kevin Puts’ Flute Concerto (2013) on the Cabrillo Festival’s opening night program, and clarinetist Emil Jonason’s speed-of-light skitter through Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto (2002) on the Festival’s closing program Sunday at Mission San Juan." Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay | read more...

"Like Norman’s Gran Turismo at the 2011 Cabrillo Festival, Unstuck left me wanting to hear more and longer works from this very talented composer." Lisa Hirsch, San Francisco Classical Voice | read more...

“Friday's opening concert at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium was wall-to-wall excellence, showcasing works by Derek Bermel, Kevin Puts and Christopher Rouse...The orchestra was tight as a drum in playing these three difficult works, which it took up in rehearsal just last week.” Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News | read more...

“Bates finds the perfect balance between innovative complexity and speaking in the idiom of our time. For too long, academic composers scared audiences away by neglecting to find that balance, resulting in a common fear of contemporary music. The Cabrillo Festival counters that perception with open-mindedness and enthusiasm. While Bates is unafraid to use dissonance, quartertones, and 'unpleasant' sounds all over the place, he also brings in jazzy melodies, hip-hop beats, and fiddle tunes, performed by Concertmaster Justin Bruns in some of the most evocative playing of the evening.” Be'eri Moalem, San Francisco Classical Voice | read more...

“Conductor Carolyn Kuan—an emergency substitute for Marin Alsop, the festival's music director, who injured her hand last month—is doing a spectacular job, stepping into the breach. The festival orchestra, always fine, sounds awesome.” Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News | read more...

2012 PRESS:

“This new-music festival is not so new, in that it turns 50 this year. This year's lineup is as provocative and intriguing as ever.” Edward Ortiz, Sacramento Bee

 “The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, that hip summer outpost for renegade sounds, is entering its 50th season.”  Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News

“Once again, multiple world premieres and invigorating orchestral programs powered this eminent festival under Alsop’s committed baton. No fest has a greater esprit de corps than this one, which draws players from all over the country to take part in the adventure on the Pacific Shores with enthusiasm... The 50th season will not soon be forgotten."Paul Hertelendy, ArtsSF

"visually elegant, but the power was in the music"
(Los Angeles Times’ Mark Swed on Hidden World of Girls: Stories for Orchestra)

"players blazed flawlessly through treacherous musical territory"
Phyllis Rosenblum, Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Marin Alsop and the Festival Orchestra have presented an astounding variety of fresh orchestral works, played with the utmost musicianship. The Festival, after 50 years, continues as a strong artistic force in the community, one for which we can be justly proud.” Phyllis Rosenblum, Santa Cruz Sentinel

“[Chavez’ Discovery] feels like the 1950s: darkly melodic and brooding; one senses the anxiety of the Cold War era. It has especially poignant and delicate writing for winds; the clarinet solos, beautifully played by Bharat Chandra, evoke lonely late-night avenues out of film noir. And its textures keep changing. Rich pizzicato strings mesh with long-lined brass toward the end -- relatively few notes, but with a rich effect.”  Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News

“Many NPR programs have made the jump from the airwaves to center stage in order to gain attention and grow an audience. In the case of Hidden World of Girls: Stories for Orchestra, which kicked off the 50th anniversary season of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the theatrical leap was managed with grace, earnestness, humility, and an eye to making fully-realized art.” Jessica Hilo, San Francisco Classical Voice

“Just as the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music reaches a milestone of middle age, the event turns its attention toward the covert and neglected realms of youth.

The internationally esteemed new music showcase is billing its landmark season as ‘Fearless at Fifty,’ and a wide swath of the programming celebrates its impressive track record presenting prescient and startlingly original composers, such as Carlos Chavez (festival director from 1970-'73) and Lou Harrison (a Cabrillo founder).

But the festival's centerpiece, "The Hidden World of Girls: Stories for Orchestra," is the most ambitious project ever undertaken at Cabrillo.” Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News


2011 PRESS:


“Northern California’s most provocative summertime musical event.”
      —Allan Ulrich, Financial Times

“Marin Alsop, music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, means business. Of the 20 works she will conduct over two weekends, 17 of them will be world or West Coast premieres.”
     —Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

“The nation’s pre-eminent event celebrating living composers and new works.”
      —Rich Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News

“ mecca…”
      —Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times

“Under Alsop’s baton, musicians from near and far, thrown together for only a few weeks each year, consistently become an ensemble that would make any concert hall proud.”
      —Janos Gereben, San Francisco Classical Voice

"One of the mysteries of Cabrillo is the way in which Alsop and the orchestra manage to quickly digest and perform so many difficult works so well."
      —Rich Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News

"...the orchestra sizzled and all composers were in attendance."
      —Scott McClelland, Santa Cruz Weekly

“It happens every time: A fast-rising wave of applause and war whoops — ‘Here she comes!’ — goes sweeping through the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium as Marin Alsop strides out from the wings. Big smile. Baton in hand. With her short sporty hairdo and fashionable pantsuit and tunic, always with a splash of color, the conductor is jaunty, hip and obviously jazzed to be back in town as leader of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, which happens every summer in the spruced-up gymnasium — an improbable setting for North America's biggest festival of new music for orchestra. In the classical music world, Alsop is one of a relatively few conductors who know how to challenge listeners while shifting the paradigm — democratizing the presentation, making classical music feel cool, not elitist.”
      —Rich Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News

"Marin Alsop’s celebration of her 20th year at the helm of the festival exhibited the brilliant and incisive conducting we’ve come to expect, and the players again displayed a remarkable mastery of a huge amount of new music."
      —Benjamin Frandzel, San Francisco Classical Voice

"...a feeling of occasion dominated as the maestra led her 67-member orchestra heroically through a pair of ambitious programmes."
      —Allan Ulrich, Financial Times

“Once again the Cabrillo Festival brought the incomparable performances of exceptional new music to Santa Cruz. Marin Alsop, in two decades, has moved the festival into the national consciousness, and has provided the musical highlight of the summer, if not the entire year for local residents and those who travel to partake of its riches.”
      —Phyllis Rosenblum, Santa Cruz Sentinel

2010 PRESS:

“At the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, new works are always the main course. Under music director Marin Alsop, the annual event offers a total immersion experience, exploring a full range of stylistic concerns and often presenting young composers before they become household names. In the process, Cabrillo has become a summer mecca for musicians and a premier musical destination for audiences.”

      –Georgia Rowe, San Jose Mercury News, August 2010


"...the evening's top honors went to Turnage's "Scherzoid," a pulsing, fast-paced piece that grabs the listener from the outset. After a jolting introduction, the British composer spreads the adrenaline throughout the orchestra, activating the sound of tightly wound strings, bellicose brass, insistent woodwinds and a hyperactive percussion battery....Alsop and the orchestra clearly relished every turn, giving the work's West Coast premiere a bang-up performance."
      —San Jose Mercury News, Georgia Rowe, August 2010

“The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is a hip and splashy event, North America’s most important festival of new orchestral music.”
      –Richard Scheinin, San Jose Mercury News, July 2010

"I caught the afternoon performance and again was bowled over by this orchestra’s steady way of rising to the challenges of this summer event. How it learns such quantities of intricate new music so well in so short a time in one of those mysteries. Clearly the players covet their annual Cabrillo immersion.”
      –Jeff Dunn, San Francisco Classical Voice, August 2010

2009 PRESS:

Sacramento Bee: "Rarely does a new music festival burn brightly on all cylinders, but that is exactly what the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music pulled off on opening night." read more...

San Francisco Classical Voice: "Sublime sounds strike Cabrillo"

Santa Cruz Sentinel:
"Alsop and the Festival Orchestra's outstanding players, along with the composers and their fine works, add up to incomparable musical riches..." read more...

Financial Times: " the surf mecca of Santa Cruz, 75 miles south of San Francisco, the Cabrillo Festival has made the contemporary repertoire sound urgent, indispensable and even sexy." read more...

Musical America names Alsop 2009 "Conductor of the Year"

"(Marin) Alsop, who was affectionately mentored by Leonard Bernstein, shares his kind of drive and determination to make music matter. 'There has to be something more than just playing well,' she says, envisioning an orchestra that can 'play so stunningly that it changes people’s lives.' As she goes about seeking to produce such an effect, the conductor has used contemporary music with particularly forceful results; her knack for precision and keen attention to minute details understandably make her prized by living composers, from John Adams to Joan Tower. Alsop’s Cabrillo Festival in California showcases her passion for new sounds and draws audiences deep into the creative process."

—Musical America, Tim Smith, December 2008


2008 PRESS:


“There’s no question that the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, held each summer in Northern California under the artistic direction of Marin Alsop, is a major force in promoting new music.”

    —Strings Magazine, Greg Cahill, January 2008

“Marin Alsop has her ear to the ground for composers of contemporary orchestral music, and you could do no better than to let her Cabrillo Festival programs be your guide"

    —San Francisco Classical Voice, Michael Zwiebach, May 2008

“This was a strong opening night to the festival, the foremost annual showcase for new orchestral music in North America.”     

—San Jose Mercury News, Richard Scheinin, August 2008


“In the past 47 years, this Santa Cruz Festival has carved a niche at presenting the new and unconventional.”  

 —Sacramento Bee, Edward Ortiz, July 2008

“Of course, the orchestra can hold its own in the hands of a master like Christopher Rouse, a longtime Cabrillo regular whose new Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned for the festival, was the weekend’s headliner. It’s a boisterous, exhilarating concoction, in which fiercely patterned rhythmic explosions alternate with lyrical interludes headed by the strings, and as the title suggests, it’s a display piece for the orchestra members, who dispatched it superbly under Alsop’s taut, fluid leadership.”

    —San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman, August 2008

“The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music wowed sellout crowds at the Civic Auditorium Friday and Saturday evenings as Maestro Marin Alsop led the Festival Orchestra in vivid new orchestral music. The festival’s two opening concerts included no less than three world premieres, one U.S. premiere, and two West Coast premieres -with every composer present.”

    —Santa Cruz Sentinel, Phyllis Rosenblum, August 2008

“Among the seven new orchestral works heard during the first weekend of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, one stood head and shoulders above the rest. Christopher Rouse’s Concerto for Orchestra, composed with dazzling virtuosity, gave Marin Alsop’s musicians a showpiece of fierce demands and breathtaking execution.”

    —Metro Santa Cruz, Scott MacClelland, August 2008



"Big shifts are happening in the symphonic world, and Cabrillo is an important carrier of that message."

—San Jose Mercury News, Rich Scheinin, August 2004

"As expected, conductor Marin Alsop's amazing orchestra dominated the 43rd Cabrillo festival of Contemporary Music. As Expected? In fact, they have spoiled us into taking for granted what no other band in the land could reasonably deliver: brilliant performances of music they have never played, or even heard, before rehearsals began."

—Metro Santa Cruz, Scott MacClelland, August 2005

"Cabrillo has created an audience for totally unknown music and is setting a great precedent for other festivals," says David Harrington, the violinist and artistic director of San Francisco's Kronos Quartet."

—Metro Santa Cruz, Peter Koht, August 2005

"If there's a more improbable enterprise on today's treacherous musical landscape than a festival devoted to contemporary music, it could only be a festival devoted to contemporary orchestral music...Yet every summer, hundred of listeners, performers, and composers find their way to the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California, for two week's worth of recent and slightly less recent orchestral music...audiences come to hear music Director Marin Alsop lead performances of works by living masters like John Adams, Christopher Rouse, James MacMillan, Thomas Adès, and Aaron Jay Kernis.

According to all the traditional marketing dicta, not to mention the persistent naysaying Cassandras of the orchestral world, this is a formula that is not supposed to work—not financially, not artistically. But at 43, the Cabrillo Festival is looking better than ever, its books are balanced, its audiences and donor base committed and enthusiastic, and its artistic profile as keenly etched as it's ever been. More than just an improbable enterprise, it's an improbable success story."

—Symphony Magazine, Joshua Kosman, May-June 2005


"Alsop has used her taut, expressive conducting style and the skills of a first-rate pickup orchestra to argue forcefully for the place of orchestral music on the postmodern landscape."

—San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman, August 2004

"These composers have Alsop to thank for bringing their music to life and to audiences. Their names may ultimately outlive hers, but in the moment, she's the sun and they're the planets, and the rest of us can fasten our seat belts for this 'screaming' ride around a solar system called Cabrillo."

—Metro Santa Cruz, Scott MacClelland, April 2004

"The American Symphony Orchestra League¦would do well to fund a thorough case study of the Cabrillo phenomenon as a model for all the symphonies out there who are struggling to survive, looking desperately for formulae to stimulate and draw audiences. Clearly, Cabrillo has achieved something that others do not remotely grasp."

—Arts San Francisco, Paul Hertelendy, Week of Aug. 16-23, 2004

"The Cabrillo Festival's most recent program radiates the new rainbow of color and timbre of the American 21st century orchestra."

—Metro Santa Cruz, Scott MacClelland, Week of Aug. 25-Sept. 1, 2004


" was powerful stuff, and it was conducted with characteristic focus and flair by music director Marin Alsop. If the two composers seemed an odd couple—Adès so flashy and so British, Adams deeply American and increasingly writing with the wisdom of middle age—the net effect was invigorating, to say the least."

—San Francisco Chronicle, Joshua Kosman, August 13, 2003

"Over 11 seasons [with the Cabrillo Festival], Music Director Marin Alsop has treated her composers like fine wines. She chooses them for their aging potential, serves them to us regularly so we can sample how their complexity is developing, and produces award-winning product year after year."

—San Francisco Classical Voice, Jeff Dunn, August 2003

"For lovers of contemporary music, Santa Cruz, California is the place to be during the first two weeks of August."

—BBC Music Magazine, August 2001

"For more than 40 years, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music has been a notable West Coast outpost for new classical music. But the festival, which has had a series of distinguished music directors, has evolved... "

—New York Times review, John Rockwell, August 13, 2003

"Marin Alsop Joins Oprah Winfrey in Newsweeks List of Powerful American Women. Conductor Marin Alsop is featured in a series of articles about women in leadership roles in the October 24 issue of Newsweek."

—Playbill Arts, October 2005

"Marin Alsop, the first woman to lead a major American symphony and the artistic director of the Santa Cruz-based Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, was among the 25 innovators chosen for this year's MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. $500,000 that recipients can use however they wish."

—The San Jose Mercury News, September 2005

"When the news leaked out that Marin Alsop was to be appointed the next music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the national media leapt on the story as a barrier-breaking milestone. Ms. Alsop would be the first woman to direct a major American orchestra. She had already made history in 2002 as the first woman to become principal conductor of a major British orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony."

"Though the breakthrough is overdue, I supported the decision for other reasons. Instead of turning to an elderly European eminence, as major American orchestras so often have, the Baltimore Symphony was putting its faith in a 48-year-old American dynamo, a formidable musician and a powerful communicator, a conductor with a vision of what an American orchestra could be in the 21st century."

—The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, July 2005

"The recent announcement that Marin Alsop will become music director of the Baltimore Symphony at the end of the 2005-2006 season is an exciting step for all who have followed her extraordinary career with great admiration, and for all who care about the well-being of the symphony orchestra in America."

—The Wall Street Journal, August 2005

"Marin Alsop breaks new ground in a world of male maestros... the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) announced last week that it had chosen Alsop to be the orchestra's new conductor... Alsop was seen as new blood and a new direction: she's only 48, young for a conductor at this level. She's funny and approachable—she has a habit of chatting informally to audiences from the podium—and she has been known to moonlight (on the violin) with a swing band. She can handle the warhorses of the repertoire—she just recorded Brahms' Symphony No. 1 with the London Philharmonic—but she also champions living American composers like Philip Glass. She can even be heard, on occasion, to utter the phrase way cool. 'There's this whole archetypal image of what a conductor is, this inaccessible person with an accent and an ascot,' Alsop says. 'This is the age of collaboration rather than autocracy.'"

—Time magazine, August 2005


Photo by: r.r. jones