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June 14, 2004

Kent Nagano selects new transcription by arts dean Edward Houghton to open Ojai Music Festival

By Scott Rappaport

The San Francisco-based choral group Chanticleer gave the premiere performance of Arts Division dean and professor of music Edward Houghton’s new transcription of Johannes Ockeghem’s Missa Ecce ancilla domini at the opening concert of the Ojai Music Festival on June 3.

Kent Nagano, Edward Houghton photo
Kent Nagano and Edward Houghton backstage at the Philharmonic Hall in Berlin.
Photo courtesy of Edward Houghton

Photo of manuscript
The original manuscript of 15th century composer Johannes Ockeghem’s Missa Ecce ancilla domini is on display in Rome at the Vatican Library.
Photo courtesy of the Vatican Library

Renowned conductor and UCSC alum Kent Nagano—the music director of the 2004 Ojai Festival--decided to open this year’s event with the new transcription by Houghton because of the success of his first concert four years ago as music director of the German Symphony Orchestra.

At that performance in Berlin, Nagano made the unprecedented and daring programming choice to combine works from the 15th and 20th centuries—juxtaposing Houghton’s transcription of Ockeghem’s Renaissance mass Missa Au travail suis with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.

Houghton has been researching and translating works by 15th-century composers into modern musical notation for the past 25 years. The mass performed at the Ojai Festival is one of 40 works known as the Chigi Codex, which Houghton is preparing for publication in a critical edition for the series Monuments of Renaissance Music by the University of Chicago Press.

"Editions of this music are needed by most musicians and music scholars because the system of musical notation, like other living languages, has changed in the course of five centuries,” Houghton noted. “In addition to interpreting obsolete signs and changed meanings, the editor can supply missing but essential information, such as text, tempo indications, and pitch alterations originally added by oral tradition in performance."

Photo of Nagano conducting
Kent Nagano conducted the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra at the 2004 Ojai Music Festival.
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Opera

Houghton traveled to Ojai to present a preconcert lecture on Ockeghem’s music at the Ojai Festival. Houghton also attended the Early Music America conference in Berkeley to participate in a panel discussion of performance issues in Ockeghem’s music. Chanticleer additionally performed Houghton’s new edition of the mass in Berkeley at St. Mark’s Church.

A former student of Houghton, Nagano graduated with degrees in music and sociology from UCSC in 1974. He is currently musical director of the Los Angeles Opera, Berkeley Symphony, and the Deutsches Symphonie.

“It's been a series of wonderful thrills to witness Kent's meteoric succession of musical achievements in Berkeley, Lyon, Berlin, and Los Angeles,” Houghton noted. “And I am anticipating more to come, beginning in 2006, with his recently announced appointments as music director for both the historic Bavarian State Opera in Munich and the Montreal Symphony.”

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