articles / Pop Culture

Can’t-Miss Summer Music Festivals in the Bay Area and Beyond…

Photo courtesy Music@Menlo


July 14–August 5, 2023

Music@Menlo, a Bay Area institution featuring world-class chamber music, returns for an exciting new season. “Beethoven Unfolding” celebrates the composer’s life and works through a series of concerts and lectures, exploring his legacy alongside the establishment of chamber music as an increasingly dominant genre within his lifetime. Don’t miss the Calidore Quartet performing the complete Beethoven string quartet cycle! Notable Beethoven biographer Jan Swafford, violinist Aaron Boyd, and David Serkin Ludwig, composer and dean of the Juilliard School, will participate in the lecture series. Repertoire featured this season includes everything from Baroque to new works by Wang Jie and Serkin Ludwig commissioned especially for the festival. Discount tickets are available for patrons under age thirty.


Stanford Live

Year-Round Events

Stanford Live truly offers something for everyone, with more than five unique performance venues to choose from. Classical, jazz, indie, world music, pop—you can find it all here. At Bing Concert Hall, the St. Lawrence Quartet will play a series of free noontime concerts. Outdoors, at the Frost Amphitheater, San Francisco Symphony will perform Elgar’s stunning Enigma Variations and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 under the baton of Anna Rakitina, featuring Denis Kozhukhin as soloist. The National Youth Orchestra comes to town on July 26, performing a brilliant new work by Valerie Coleman, one of the foremost Black women composers today, along with Barber’s Violin Concerto and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. Make sure to check out Imua Hawaii Music Festival and the celebrated Brazilian bandleader Sérgio Mendes.


Bear Valley Music Festival

July 21–August 6, 2023

The 55th Anniversary Season of the Bear Valley Music Festival features a wide range of music from classical to pop. Alexander Mickelthwaite, Music Director of Oklahoma City Philharmonic, who has been praised for his “fine overall blend and balance of sound,” has now taken over the baton from the Bay Area’s late Michael Morgan, the beloved former conductor of the Oakland Symphony. Acclaimed Sitarist Arjun Verma will join the Bear Valley Symphony to perform his Sitar Fusion, a work that blends South Asian and Western classical styles, alongside Dvorak’s beloved “New World” Symphony. Don’t miss the festival’s Candlelight Chamber Night, where members of the symphony play pieces they specifically curated. Tony Kishman offers a tribute to Paul McCartney’s music.


Carmel Bach Festival

July 15–29, 2023

Celebrating its 86th season, the 2023 Carmel Bach Festival centers around the theme of “Beginnings,” from the first music to be printed in 16th-century Italy, Spain, and England, to American hymns and spirituals drawn from Genesis, the first book of the Bible. True to the festival’s name, Bach features prominently on the program in cantatas and pieces for fortepiano and organ. The festival is known as much for the quality of its musicianship as its scenery, with its beautiful venues such as the Church in the Forest (every bit as picturesque as it sounds) and Carmel Mission Basilica, all set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Carmel seaside. Reasonable ticket prices and an absolutely stunning location? We’re in.


Mendocino Music Festival

July 15–29, 2023

Mendocino Music Festival offers an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, zydeco, and blues. The festival kicks off with CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, known for CJ’s virtuosic accordion-forward Zydeco and blues. “Ravel: the Lure of the Exotic” celebrates Ravel’s piano music. Pianist Susan Waterfall takes on Ravel’s Pavane pour un infante défunte, and Oiseaux tristes among other works, followed by the vocal work Cinq mélodies populaires grecques and the stunning Piano Trio in A Minor. Other program highlights include Grammy award-winning classical violinist Mads Tolling, the Blind Boys of Alabama, jazz pianist Kalil Wilson, Olatunja—a captivating blend of afrobeat, jazz, funk, and soul—and San Francisco native Sam Reider, a pianist to watch who blends jazz with folk.


Midsummer Mozart Festival

July 19–22, 2023

A staple of the San Francisco summer music scene, the Midsummer Mozart Festival brings to the stage the rarely heard opera Bastien und Bastienne (1768) and Symphony No. 33 (1779). Notably, the development section of the opening movement of Symphony No. 33 features the same four-note theme that would he would later use again for the finale of the “Jupiter” Symphony. Written when Mozart was just twelve years old, Bastien und Bastienne is a one-act Singspiel, a popular genre of German-language opera that contains both spoken dialogue and singing. Modeled on Rousseau’s (yes, the philosopher) earlier comic opera Le devin du village (“The Village Soothsayer”), one of the most popular operas at the court of Louis XV, Bastien und Bastienne follows the misadventures of the protagonists, who are in love but suspect one another of being unfaithful. They do what any couple would do in this situation—they each seek help from a magician who gives them highly questionable advice. A few magic spells and one suicide threat later, the two finally decide to call a truce. Catch Bastien und Bastienne and Symphony 33 at Mountain Winery (July 19), St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco (July 21), or Buena Vista Winery (July 22). The Midsummer Mozart Festival Chamber Players perform a selection of Mozart’s chamber works at Berkley City Club on July 20.


Music in the Vineyards

July 28–August 20, 2023

 The preeminent chamber music festival of Napa Valley, Music in the Vineyards hosts concerts at various wineries, enabling audiences to experience chamber music in the intimate venues for which this repertoire was intended. With complimentary wine tastings at intermission, post-concert mingling sessions, and some of the best views and chamber music talent in the world, Music in the Vineyards makes for a thrilling classical music adventure in wine country. This season showcases the Calidore and Catalyst Quartets as well as the Bay Area’s own Telegraph Quartet. Not-So-Silent-Cinema, a favorite event at last year’s festival, returns for a second year.


Ojai Music Festival

June 8–11, 2023

In case you missed it, you can still catch the Ojai Music Festival through their free Live Stream Replays. Featuring classical and contemporary works, the Ojai Music Festival represents some of the most adventurous programming today. 2023 Festival Music Director Rhiannon Giddens, known for her revival of Black roots music and forward-thinking compositions, is a recipient of a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Grant and recently won a Pulitzer Prize for her 2022 opera Omar, co-written with Michael Abels. Giddens assembled a brilliant 2023 program that features plenty of contemporary works from Philip Glass, John Adams, Tan Dun, and Giddens herself alongside repertoire staples from Haydn and music from Senegal and the Carolinas. Featured artists include members of the Silkroad Ensemble; Seckou Keita, one of the foremost players of the kora; the acclaimed Attacca Quartet; and pipa virtuosa Wu Man.

Written by:
Holly Chung, Ph.D.
Holly Chung, Ph.D.
Published on 06.30.2023