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Maestra Marin Alsop’s Final Season at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music

Adriane White
Maestra Marin Alsop wraps up her final season at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

This weekend Marin Alsop will wrap up her final year as Music Director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (which supports KAZU).  It’s a position she’s held since 1992.    She's premiered works by America's top composers here, from John Adams to John Corigliano. 

Rick Kleffel (RK): Talk about bringing new music to the classical genre.

Marin Alsop (MA): I try to approach all music in the same way, you know for me, Beethoven was definitely new music at one moment.  I mean, can you imagine the first time somebody got to hear that FifthSymphony, whoa, get out!  It's that same experience where, you know, I just say "Wow..." I try to program with music that speaks to my heart ... I think for me it's all about "Wow..." so that people step away and say, "Wow, that was a great piece..."

RK: Could you talk about how the landscape of Central California, Monterey, Santa Cruz has informed your music and your life and maybe the choices you made for the Contemporary Music Festival?

MA: It's people..and of course people, the people that inhabit the landscape reflect that landscape, so maybe it's all one in the end.  There's a relaxed approach to living, there's an enjoyment of life, there's an openness here that has embraced contemporary music and allowed me to experiment, especially with my philosophy that every human being is curious and every human being wants to be part of a bigger creative process. You know, so by opening up this festival to every constituent, I mean if you happen to drive though Santa Cruz and you park outside, you can just come in to any of our rehearsals or talks.  There's an accessibility and a sense of inclusion here that I think reflects and the populace here. 

RK: This time around you’re going to be celebrating John Adams and actually he's celebrating you.  Have you heard the work yet?

MA: Yes, we've rehearsed it, and uh, we love the piece.  It's really a beautiful story, that my musicians here, whom I absolutely adore, got together and talked John Adams into writing a piece for me and it's called Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance.  It is exactly what it sounds like, and it's so interesting because of course... this is kind of a crazy dance, the E-flat clarinet seems to be the one that has been most affected by the spider bite, and goes crazy, but metrically it goes all over the place and wow, gets super fast and and really, really fun and then it kind of winds down, you know, as the venom recedes  a little bit and then it just kind of poops out. [Laughs.] It's really fun, really, really awesome.

RK: This season concludes with a really powerful symphony that you began with.

MA: I'm going to end the festival with John Corigliano's First Symphony which he wrote in memory of the victims of AIDS.  I think by bringing this piece back, uh, this is the only time in my tenure at Cabrillo that I will repeat a piece.  You know, being a champion of a piece that I always knew would have that kind of effect and that kind of longevity, I think ...brings validity to what we did, what I do as an artist in championing these composers. 

And I suppose it's like a summary for me of my time here trying to complete that circle, that it's all about a shared emotional journey, and you know we all may feel differently, but we still end up changed by the music.