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July 1, 2010

Two in Two: Summer Concerts in Maine and New Hampshire

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Now that summer is officially underway, four more summer music festivals are starting their seasons — two in Maine and two in New Hampshire. All commence on July 1. A number feature performers not heard often, if at all, in Boston, but these festivals also provide opportunities for summer outings to areas filled with treasures that are beyond the Basin. In this installment, BMInt brings to your attention summer concerts from the Bowdoin Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine; the Bay Chamber in mid-coast Maine; the Heifitz Institute in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire; and Monadnock Music in the Monadnock Region of southern New Hampshire.

The Bowdoin International Music Festival, in Brunswick, Maine, which runs from July 1 through August 6, is centered on the campus of the Bowdoin College. Its Walker Art Museum is famous for its commissioned portraits of all the first five residents of the United States, other magnificent portraits such as one of Longfellow by G.P.A. Healy, and an ongoing exhibition of its impressive collection of American landscape painting, especially its fine Winslow Homers. Architecture buffs can enjoy works by mid-19th-century Richard Upjohn and the Harriet Beecher Stowe home. And there’s the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, offering a centennial exhibition of the Peary Expedition.

Friday night series at the Bowdoin Festival present traditional chamber music and orchestral repertoire performed by artists from around the world. A mid-week series featuring Festival artists, presenting a mixture of established and contemporary works in a summer-suitable informal setting. Its Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music is from July 29 to August 1 — at a suggested donation of just $10.00 per concert. The Monday Sonatas series, according to the Festival website, “allows our artists and patrons to fully enjoy the superior acoustics of Bowdoin College’s state-of-the-art Studzinski Recital Hall” in a small auditorium. Sounds like an opportunity to compare it with the new highly touted Shalin Liu Performance Center of Rockport Music.

Further Down East, the Bay Chamber Concerts Summer Music Festival in Rockport, Maine, also starts on July 1 but runs through August 26.  A harbor village on Penobscot Bay, Rockport has an opera house, overlooking the bay, where many of the concerts are held — also calling to mind the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, MA. One of Penobscot Bay’s lighthouses — beautifully maintained, though now private — can be seen from shore but is best viewed from one- or multiple-day cruises out of Rockport and Camden. Concerts are also held at Camden’s Opera House and Rockland’s Strand Theatre, both renovated within the last eight years. A new collaboration offers a concert at the Farnsworth Art Museum Wyeth Center in nearby Rockland.

Violinist Shmuel Ashkelansi and pianist Peter Serkin return to open Bay Chamber’s 50th summer season with works by Dallapiccola, Busoni, and Beethoven (Kreutzer Sonata). Its concerts, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, will include such highlights at Menahem Pressler and the St. Lawrence Quartet; Haochen Zhang, one of the youngest Van Cliburn Gold Medal winners; and the season finales, “Mostly Mozart” on Aug. 25 and “Mostly Beethoven” on August 26, with principal players from the Boston, Pittsburgh, and National Symphonies, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

New Hampshire’s Heifitz International Music Institute Celebrity Concert Series is the third with a July 1 opening concert. Primarily a six-week summer program at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire for talented, promising young musicians in the world, the Heifetz Festival hosts the Celebrity Concert Series on Thursday evenings until August 5. Wolfeboro attractions are almost all centered on Lake Winnipesaukee, by far the largest body of water in the state. Boating opportunities abound, and the New Hampshire Boat Museum has an intriguing series of events, including a vintage boat auction on July 17. There is also the Wright Museum, focusing on civilian life in America during World War II.

The opening summer concert of the Heifetz Music Institute is a Musical Tribute to General James Wolfe, the British hero of the French and Indian war who was lionized for his victory at Louisburg but died in the battle on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec in 1759. (The town of Wolfeboro was granted that year to four settlers from Portsmouth.) Among regular performers are Miriam Fried and Paul Biss. The closing concert, on August 5, is in memory of Marylou Churchill, former principal second violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Monadnock Music is a venerable festival now under new artistic management, although founder and composer James Bolle is still very much in evidence. And it remains loyal to its mission to present contemporary music, especially by American composers. Its concerts, many of them free, are held in historic meetinghouses and churches in 17 of New Hampshire’s most picturesque towns in the Monadnock Region, perfect locations for pre-concert picnics. The Monadnock’s website contains an irresistibly quotable description of its concert location in Francestown: “The Old Meeting House is but the focal point of a town without an architectural clinker on the Main Street. The Levi Woodbury Homestead is adjacent to the Old Meeting House, and across the way are fine house sheds near the Town Hall.” But there’s nothing to be ashamed of in Jaffrey, Dublin, Hancock, Temple, … It is the only venue of the four that can be simply a day jaunt.

A series of six free concerts called The Mozart Trail will be repeated in several venues. Particularly interesting is the second, offered at Jaffrey, Temple, or Walpole: Penderecki’s String Trio, Respighi’s Il Tramonto, Nicholas Stoia’s Three Short Songs, and Mozart’s String Quintet in E-flat, K. 614 with Elizabeth Willis, poet; Krista River, soprano; Adela Pena, Eric Pritchard, violins; Jonathan Bagg, Tawnya Popoff, violas; Gregory Hesselink, cello; Laura Gilbert, flute. Most of the concerts that charge admission are held at the Peterborough Town Hall. Boston’s Borromeo Quartet is playing a concert different from the Beethoven quartets they have been presenting locally this season; they will perform J.S. Bach: St. Anne’s Fugue BWV 552 (arranged by Nicholas Kitchen), Lera Auerbach: String Quartet No. 4, and Beethoven: String Quartet in E-flat, Op. 127.

The next, and final, installment on summer festivals will take us to the Far West and South of the Border – to the seasons at Tanglewood and Newport.

Information on all concerts at all four festivals is in BMInt’s Upcoming Events.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for mentioning the HEIFETZ INSTITUTE concert series. These are wonderful concerts held in a small, intimate venue in beautiful Wolfeboro, NH

    Both special event concerts and student chamber music performances are well worth attending. The technical skill and interpretive intensity are at times amazing. Tickets are available in advance or at the door.. GREAT!!!

    Comment by Ed Burke — July 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm

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