Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Festival Napa Valley

Two things that go well together are wine and music. And for ten days each year, wine and music come together for Festival Napa Valley. Epitomizing the elegance of wine country life, Festival Napa Valley is the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Every July, for ten days, more than 200 artists, wineries, resorts, theaters, restaurants and vintners participate in Festival Napa Valley. Extraordinary performances in breathtaking locations make up many of the experiences for guests. There are vintner luncheons, winemaker dinners and most importantly, the concerts.

The arts are such an important part of our lives. Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects. Music helps with language development, spatial-temporal skills and increased IQ. Music makes us happier and less stressed. I grew up in a family of professional classical flutists and started playing at a young age. I played in orchestras my entire childhood and went to music camp each summer. Music has played such a significant part in my life and gives me great pleasure to see other young people experiencing the same.

Festival Napa Valley is “committed to enriching the vitality of the community and making the arts accessible to all.” Festival Napa Valley’s Blackburn Music Academy provides a tuition-free immersive training and performance experience for 80 emerging pre-professional musicians from around the world. These talented musicians applied from 108 schools and conservatories across 39 states and five countries! They participate in chamber music and orchestral concerts, workshops, sectionals and other professional development sessions with the Festival Napa Valley artists.

Festival Napa Valley has been held for more than a decade but this was my first time going to the festival. I attended three exceptional concerts. Two of the concerts were at the magnificent Castello di Amorosa, an authentically-built 13th century Tuscan castle that is located in Calistoga. Owner Dario Sattui spent fifteen years building the eight level, 107 room castle, which includes a torture chamber. The courtyard of the castle is where the concerts took place. A stage was set with a grand piano. There was seating in the courtyard for a couple hundred people.

The first concert I attended was the Grand Cru Piano Series Concertos at Castello di Amorosa. This concert featured Gold Medalists from three of the world’s most prestigious piano competitions, each playing a concerto with the Blackburn Music Academy Orchestra under the baton of Martin West.

Italian pianist Rodolfo Leone, first prize winner in the 2017 Vienna International Beethoven Competition, played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and his fingers were like butter as they glided across the keyboard.

Hungarian Zoltán Fejérvári, first prize winner of the Concours Musical International de Montréal, delighted us with Bela Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in E Major.

South Korean-born Yekwon Sunwoo, Gold medal winner of the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, energetically played Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major.

The second concert I enjoyed was a lively and energetic jazz concert, also at the Castello di Amorosa, featuring Cuban-born jazz trumpeter and composer, 10-time Grammy Award-winner and 2013 recipient of the Medal of Freedom Arturo Sandoval. He played his trumpet, the piano, drums and sang and despite the 100 degree heat, we enjoyed every minute.

The third and final concert I attended was a live performance by violinist Joshua Bell and a live orchestra as we watched the 1998 Academy Award-winning movie The Red Violin. The immersive experience was mesmerizing and was also attended by composer John Corigliano who wrote all the music that Joshua Bell performed originally in the movie.

So many concerts, tastings and dinners took place over the ten days of Festival Napa Valley and next year I hope to return to experience even more as Festival Napa Valley is the Please The Palate pick of the week.