The La Jolla Music Society and Inon Barnatan, the acclaimed pianist who took the helm of SummerFest in 2019, have agreed on a new three-year contract, extending his tenure through September 2025.
In an announcement made Friday, as this year’s edition of SummerFest was coming to a close, La Jolla Music Society Artistic Director Leah Rosenthal praised Barnatan for his “vision” and “artistry.”
“As a longtime admirer of both Inon the artist and Inon the person, I couldn’t be more thrilled to get a chance to work with him for another three years,” she said in a statement. “Thanks to Inon’s creative vision, collaborative spirit and impeccable artistry, the most prolific and in-demand classical musicians, jazz artists and dancers in the world are excited to come here to The Conrad to play with him. There is no one better to lead SummerFest into the next phase of its evolution as one of the best chamber music festivals in the U.S., let alone the world.”
Barnatan, the fourth SummerFest music director in the annual chamber-music festival’s 36-year history, replaced Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, who headed SummerFest for 18 years. Barnatan’s arrival in 2019 coincided with the opening of the society’s $78 million Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, also known as The Conrad, a massive undertaking that recast La Jolla Music Society both physically and culturally in San Diego’s artistic landscape.
Barnatan and the new performing arts center breathed new life into the organization, which this weekend wrapped up the biggest SummerFest in its history, with 20 concerts over four weeks.
“In addition to his international career as a concert pianist, Inon has clearly found a new career niche that fits his skill set and expertise perfectly,” Todd Schultz, president and CEO of La Jolla Music Society, said in a statement. “With each season, his curatorial skills develop and expand, and you can palpably sense his personal exuberance for the work in the performances on the stage and in the artists he hires.
“Inon’s personal enthusiasm and creativity are helping draw new audiences. In fact, this summer’s festival — even after two years of quarantine and COVID — will nearly match the record-setting sales of 2019 when The Conrad was brand new. Inon’s contract extension lines up perfectly with the board’s recently developed strategic plan, which lays out goals for more extensive utilization of our new venue and a dedication to deeper service to the community.”
The Israeli-born, New York-based Barnatan said he is looking forward to continuing his stewardship of SummerFest.
“Working with Leah, Todd and the entire incredible staff of The Conrad these past four years has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my musical life,” Barnatan said. “It’s deeply gratifying to feel the audiences responding so enthusiastically and with such love to the work we have been putting on stage. I can’t wait to see what the next three years bring.”