California Festival, co-led by San Diego Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and L.A. Phil, will celebrate new music

Rafael Payare (left), Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel
Rafael Payare (left), Esa-Pekka Salonen and Gustavo Dudamel are the masterminds of November’s two-week California festival. “It makes sense to do this,” Payare said, “because we are not only in one country but in one single state.”
(Boris Allin)

The two-week statewide event will include dozens of music organizations, including La Jolla Music Society, Mainly Mozart and San Diego Youth Symphony, playing music composed in past 5 years


The San Diego Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony are spearheading a two-week, statewide music festival this fall that will features dozens of arts organizations.

Entitled California Festival: A Celebration of New Music, it will showcase forward-looking new music from around the world that was composed over the past five years.

Designed to highlight “the collaborative and innovative spirit that thrives in California,” the festival will feature concerts curated and performed by dozens of music organizations, including the La Jolla Music Society, Mainly Mozart and San Diego Youth Symphony.

California Festival was jointly conceived by the music directors of the state’s three leading orchestras — the San Diego Symphony’s Rafael Payare, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Gustavo Dudamel and the San Francisco Symphony’s Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The globe-trotting Venezuelan orchestra leader, just back from his latest European tour, is excited to soon take his first bite of the Big Apple

Nov. 11, 2022

All three orchestras will perform as part of the festival, which will be held across the state between Nov. 4 and Nov. 19. The specific concerts and venues have not yet been announced.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Payare, Dudamel and Salonen explained their impetus and goals for the festival.

“California holds a unique place in music and culture, not just in the United States but in the wider world as well. It brings out the unexpected and illuminates the unseen, moving even the most reserved among us,” the statement begins.

“For more than a century, California has been a home for musical experimentation. It is where countless composers came, fleeing war and intolerance, and found stability and freedom of expression that allowed them to transcend the strict artistic boundaries they had constructed for themselves. It is where a film industry founded by outcasts and refugees became a global cultural center, creating a constant demand for ever-more-creative musical compositions that have evolved into a genre in its own right.

“And it is where American composers are transforming the way music is composed, performed and heard. Today, California — a state with the economic power of a country, the ecological diversity of a continent, and the cultural diversity of the planet— represents a powerful vision for classical music.

“Our three orchestras, in partnership with other arts organizations from throughout this state, have come together to celebrate the sheer magnitude of California’s contributions to classical music and to dream of new ways that we can work together to express our deep appreciation for the environment, communities and technological innovation that make this state so deeply unique.”

Payare and Dudamel are longtime friends who are both natives of Venezuela. Dudamel succeeded Salonen, a native of Finland, as the music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2007.

“We breathe and think the same,” Payare told the San Diego Union-Tribune in a phone interview from London.

“The way the three of us program our concerts and seasons is similar in concept, if not in repertoire. So, it makes sense to do this, because we are not only in one country but in one single state. That made it easy to put this together to celebrate California, which has been a home for so many artists from around the world,” Payare said.

Because of their busy schedules, it was only last week that the three music directors were able to meet in person to discuss the festival — in Paris.

“Even though it was the first time we all got together, it felt like we had known each other all of our lives,” Payare said.

The festival will be anchored by music but also will incorporate other artistic disciplines. Each of the arts groups who are participating will curate their own programs in ways that are meaningful to their communities.

Performances will not be limited to concert halls. Different organizations performing under the festival’s umbrella will present events in auditoriums and at schools, clubs and alternative spaces throughout the state.

“The goal,” Payare said, “is to showcase what California has meant for the arts, how it is welcoming and respects the traditions but also welcomes artists to try new things. It’s really culturally cosmopolitan and you don’t have to wipe out where you came from — you can add to the spirit of California.”

The upcoming festival was applauded by Jonathan Moscone, the executive director of the California Arts Council.

“California’s musical organizations are integral to the spirit and the fabric of the Golden State,” Moscone said in a Tuesday statement. “Our musicians, orchestras, festivals, presenters, spaces and performing arts venues center California as a creative cornerstone of America.

“We applaud the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Diego and San Francisco symphonies, and the countless other participating organizations for their joint vision in sharing with the world the inclusivity and innovation that people from across the world continue to seek here in California,” Moscone said.

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