Pianist Julio Elizalde becoming part of music-fest family
Two players performing this weekend at the Olympic Music Festival (OMF) happen to represent the past, present and possible future of the annual chamber music event near Quilcene. Alan Iglitzin, 81, founder and music director of OMF— celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer at its longtime site, a charming 55-acre former dairy farm — will be playing viola as part of a quintet including pianist Julio Elizalde, 28. Elizalde became the festival’s co-artistic director this year.
The musical partnership between these two men has been fruitful for OMF in more ways than one. Three years ago, Iglitzin — a founding member of the Philadelphia String Quartet — began sharing administrative duties with Elizalde, and things took off from there. “Last year I had more of an official role, so I became associate artistic director,” says Elizalde. “This year I have heftier responsibilities with choices of artists, programming, scheduling, so I became co-artistic director alongside Alan.”
Asked if there is a plan for him to take the reins of OMF at some point, Elizalde cites his mentor’s high energy and full attention on keeping the beloved festival a success. “Alan’s not going anywhere anytime soon. As he’s come to know me, he’s given me more responsibility and feels more comfortable knowing my choices will be beneficial. I run everything past him and if he’s not sure about something, we talk about it. I love this festival and I’m committed to it in the long run.”
Elizalde graduated with honors from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and received a doctoral degree from The Juilliard School in 2011. A New Yorker for some years, he will be moving to Tacoma soon to become a visiting professor of piano at the University of Puget Sound. A busy soloist, chamber player and recital partner, Elizalde is pianist for the New York City-based New Trio, which includes violinist Andrew Wan (co-concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra) and Patrick Jee (cellist for the New York Philharmonic). The ensemble will release its debut album in late 2013.
Among Elizalde’s artistic choices at OMF is how to program several of the festival’s 10 weekends of concerts.“There are certain weeks that are a blank slate for me to work with,” Elizalde says. “These coming weeks were, for the most part, my decision and my choice of people.”
This weekend finds Iglitzin and Elizalde joined by violinists Emily Daggett Smith and Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, plus cellist Matthew Zalkind in a program that includes music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Antonin Dvorak, William Walton and Lukas Foss. Elizalde will play piano on all remaining concerts through the season finale on Aug. 31-Sept. 1. Are his decisions about repertoire partly based on a desire to push himself as a musician?
“I definitely like having pieces to explore,” Elizalde says. “Sometimes I go too far. We were just rehearsing a piano quartet by Walton, and Matthew [Zalkind] said: ‘Man, this piece is really hard. Did you think about this?’ When you have control over programming, you can get a little trigger-happy. A program will seem great, but you don’t realize what it will be like going week to week from one challenge to the next.”