Although the wave of national tours that sweep South Florida during the regular season are over by April, there are several classical festivals that are regular features of the hot months afterward, when we’re all in need of some relief.
Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival (July 5-28; West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, Delray Beach)
In the long-distant year of 1992, when the first hand-sized cellphone debuted and Microsoft’s big news was the release of Windows 3.1, three woodwind players in Palm Beach County got together on a July afternoon at the Duncan Theatre to offer a program of chamber music.
That first concert eventually evolved into a month of concerts, one program played three times at three different venues in different parts of the county. And there have been six well-regarded recordings of music from the series, which opens its 28th season the day after Independence Day. Over the decades, the festival has presented a great deal of unusual repertoire (in part because its founders are woodwind players), and that makes its concerts a special joy.
As of early May, the organizers of the festival — flutist Karen Fuller, clarinetist Michael Forte and bassoonist Michael Ellert — had not settled on the final repertoire for the concerts. But Fuller said featured works would include the too-rarely heard Piano Quartet No. 2 (in A, Op. 26) of Brahms, the excellent but also overlooked Piano Trio of Fanny Mendelssohn, and the Septet (Op. 20) of Beethoven, a genial work that was the composer’s most popular piece during his lifetime.
Other pieces include the late Cello Sonata of Chopin, a trio sonata by C.P.E. Bach, and the Concertino for flute, viola and piano of Ernst Bloch, as well as the Nonet by the German Romantic composer Louis Spohr, who was hugely popular in his own day, which was the early 19th century.
Concerts will be held in three different Palm Beach County venues, reaching different parts of the county. At 7:30 p.m. Fridays, it’s the Persson Recital Hall at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach; at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, the music can be heard at First Presbyterian Church in North Palm Beach; and at 2 p.m. Sundays, the venue will be the Crest Theatre at Old School Square in Delray Beach. Concerts are set for July 5-7, 12-14, 19-21 and 26-28.
Tickets are $25 for each concert. For more information, call 561-547-1070, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit pbcmf.org.
Miami Music Festival (May 29-July 28, Miami Beach and Miami)
Founded five years ago by a Washington National Opera assistant conductor named Michael Rossi, this Aspen-style summer learning-intensive has been most impressive for its breadth, ambition and even choice of repertoire.
This year, the festival relocates from its original home at Barry University in Miami Shores to South Beach, a step-up in glam that will likely draw more interest from participants and audiences. Public performances will take place at the New World Center, the Woman’s Club, Miami Community Church and Temple Emanu-El.
The two-session festival is divided into two large parts: Opera and Instrumental, with training beginning in late May and continuing to the end of July. Orchestral players receive individual training in their instrument, and they are members of one of two orchestras: The MMF Symphony or the MMF Opera and Conductors Orchestra. There is a separate track for pianists, and there also is a Conductors Institute for aspiring masters of the baton as well as an ensemble to practice on.
The Opera activities of the festival include an Apprentice Program, Studio Program and Vocal Collaborative Institute; all told, the singers tackle six operas: Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro and The Magic Flute; Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea and Gluck’s Armide; and two contemporary operas, Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters and Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar.
Perhaps the most important teaching effort of the Miami Music Festival is the Wagner Institute, which trains singers 30 and older to take on the special singing stamina required for the epic operas of Richard Wagner. In past years, the festival has offered individual selections and whole acts from the operas, with performers including Christine Goerke, currently appearing in the Ring cycle at the Metropolitan Opera. This year, it’s a complete semi-staged performance of The Flying Dutchman. That’s scheduled for July 13 at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami.
Enthusiasts can catch piano recitals and chamber music recitals at the Betsy, the restored South Beach Art Deco hotel, a co-sponsor of the festival. The MMF Symphony presents a July Fourth concert, followed two days later by a reading of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, conducted by Mark Gibson, a longtime director of orchestral studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. A concert featuring winners of the festival’s concerto competition, conducted by Juilliard Quartet violinist Joel Smirnoff, is set for July 19.
If all that weren’t enough, Rossi last year introduced the Career Institute, a two-session program of practical business advice for artists that includes instruction in forming a business, creating a website and marketing plan, and other things vital to avoiding the starving-artist model for life success.
As of early May, public performance dates were still being decided. For more information, visit miamimusicfestival.com.
Mainly Mozart Festival (May 11-June 29, Coral Gables and Miami)
This Coral Gables-based chamber music series has been going for three decades now, most recently in its intelligent revamp by the Ukrainian-born pianist Marina Radiushina, working with attorney and culture maven Mike Eidson.
This year’s festival technically already got underway in late April with two lectures by the eminent musicologist Frank Cooper, an advocate of overlooked Romantic music who retired from the University of Miami a couple years back. This year’s festival is called French Connections, and concerts begin on the campus of the University of Miami with violinist Grace Park accompanied by Radiushina in sonatas by Mozart and Fauré (May 11); the Amernet String Quartet with pianist Michael Linville in the Elgar Piano Quintet plus a Mozart quartet (K. 428) and the String Trio of Jean Francaix (May 18); the Bergonzi String Quartet with Radiushina in a piano quintet by Luigi Boccherini along with quartets by Mozart (K. 421) and Saint-Saëns (May 25).
June opens with violist Richard O’Neill in transcriptions of songs by Fauré, Debussy and Schubert, along with that same composer’s Arpeggione Sonata and a viola version of the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata (June 1); the Delray String Quartet is up next with quartets by Mozart (K. 575) and Ravel, as well as an arrangement of one of the Water Music suites of Handel (June 8).
On June 15, the festival expands its reach with a multimedia concert featuring a tribute to a catalog of roses done for Napoleon’s empress, Josephine, a copy of which is in the UM Libraries. Soprano Maria Aleida will sing rose-related songs by Weber, Schumann, Purcell and Saint-Saens; Cooper will give a video-accompanied lecture about the book before the music; pianist Francisco Renno, best-known for his work as accompanist for the Miami City Ballet, presents an all-Chopin recital June 22.
The festival wraps at the Knight Center on June 29 with “Rehearsal in Paris,” a multi-genre evening featuring a piano trio of Radiushina, violinist Qianqian Lee and cellist Thomas Mesa, accompanied by a film by Ali Habashi and dances by Ashley Knox and Alexander Peters of the Miami City Ballet.
Tickets range from $25-$30, with $10 tickets for children’s programs. For more information, visit www.mainlymozart.com.