Festival “Friday Gardens” Concert | Photo by Stan Sholik

The 39th season of the Baroque Music Festival Corona Del Mar is upon us from June 23rd to the 30th. Internationally renowned violinist and early music expert Elizabeth Blumenstock again leads the festival as artistic director. Recently John Van Driel had a chance to talk to her about this year’s festival.

You perform all around the world, so I know you’re familiar with the early music scene. How does this festival compare to what else is out there?

Very favorably, in my opinion. Festivals that survive always have something going for them. Either they’re focused around the music of Bach, which is a big thing to have going for you, or they take place in some incredibly attractive place, or they have an international star line-up. The things that I think the Corona del Mar festival really has going for it are the beautiful location by the beach and the easy, open atmosphere – it’s a beautiful place to visit whether you’re from far away or close-by – and the layout of five concerts over two weekends with three midweek concerts. The first Sunday concert is orchestral and the second Sunday concert is orchestral plus voices. The Monday concerts are recitals, this year we’re having a modern guitar recital. And then the Wednesday and Friday concerts have always taken place at the Sherman Gardens, which is an absolutely stunning library and gardens right in downtown Corona del Mar, with parking! People just love to come there. It’s a smaller, more intimate venue and that makes us a little different from a number of festivals. Being conceived of a community-oriented festival there was no attempt to move into giant halls. So our venues are relatively modest, we do serve the community and the community has always been enthusiastic. We’re deeply embedded in our community here, so that’s another plus alongside the great music, beautiful surroundings, and the wonderful orchestra and musicians – I try to use as many performers from the Southern California area as possible.

What do you look for when you’re planning a season? I imagine you want to change things up from one season to the next. What did you look for this season?

I have sort of gravitated to having a mild sort of a theme. One year it was “what was happening three hundred years ago this year” and I explored the interesting things (people, performers, compositions) from that year. I’ve focused on countries, like music from the UK. Sometimes it’s a piece I really want to perform – a single piece will germinate a theme and I’ll try to flesh it out with some novelties. About four years ago it was sort of a mini-Bach festival and that was a turning point for us. We got more audience members that year and I can only chalk that up to the eternal appeal of Bach and I thought hmm, we should do this again. So we’re doing it again this year.

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