Classical events during the high season are distinguished by big stars and ensembles coming through South Florida in times of chilly weather up north. And while the summer months have always had things going on if you knew where to look, these days there are bigger and more elaborate events that bring out the permanent residents. Here’s an overview:
Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival: Now in its 27th season, this durable monthlong concert series has been a staple draw in the weeks after Independence Day. Founded by three woodwind players in 1992, the festival, which runs this year from July 6 to 29, consists of 12 concerts: four programs repeated three times over a Friday-Sunday period, in three different venues in the south, central and northern parts of Palm Beach County.
Among the special events this year are two themed programs, one of music from Spain and South America, and the other of American music, as well as a world premiere: a nonet by horn player and attorney Andrew Lewinter. A former member of the Florida Philharmonic who switched careers to the law, Lewinter recently began composing and wrote this piece for the chamber festival.
“Andrew found us,” Ellert said, noting that Lewinter had reached out to festival co-founder Karen Dixon about writing the nonet, and began sending the players movements of the piece as he finished it. “It’ll be very exciting to do that piece.”
The first week features as its major work the Piano Trio No. 2 (in C minor) of Mendelssohn, a taut masterwork that will share the program with chamber versions of Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question and a trumpet concerto by Vivaldi. An opera paraphrase for two flutes and piano by the 19th-century flute virtuoso Franz Doppler on themes from Bellini’s La Sonnambula, and a wind trio by the French composer Joseph Canteloube (best known for his Songs of the Auvergne) round out the program (July 6-8).
A string quartet by the sadly short-lived “Spanish Mozart,” Juan Arriaga, who died a week before his 20th birthday in 1826, is on Week II along with Sarasate’s Carmen Fantaisie and Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango. Also featured is a flamenco dancer, Eva Conti, who also plays horn in the Symphonia Boca Raton and the New Haven Symphony in Connecticut. She’ll be dancing to the accompaniment to part of a suite from Manuel de Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat. A wind quintet (Belle Epoque en Sud-America) by the contemporary Brazilian composer Julio Medaglia also is featured. (July 13-15).
Lewinter’s Nonet, which is scored for wind quintet, string trio and bass, leads off Week III, which also includes Mosaics, a piece for flute, bassoon and marimba by the Juilliard professor Eric Ewazen, and a trio for clarinet, violin and piano by Gian-Carlo Menotti, best-known for his operas of the 1950s and 1960s. The program concludes with one of the most beloved pieces in the Czech repertoire, Dvorak’s American String Quartet (No. 12 in F), written when Dvorak was in Iowa for his summer holiday from a three-year teaching job at New York’s new National Conservatory of Music. (July 20-22)
The final week features the Serenade for wind quintet and harp by the British film composer John Addison, probably best known for his music for the popular TV whodunit Murder, She Wrote, as well as the Three Summer Sketches for violin, clarinet and bassoon by the Jacksonville-based composer Piotr Szewczyk (pronounced CHEF-chick). The concluding work is one of the most admired all of all chamber music pieces, the Trout Quintet of Schubert, so named because Schubert used one of his songs, The Trout, as a basis for the fourth movement’s theme and variations. (July 27-29)
“There’s lots of different music on these programs, a lot of stuff that’s outside our normal purview,” Ellert said, adding that over the past 26 seasons (and including the six recordings on the Klavier label) the festival musicians have played around 375 different works.
The concerts will be performed on Friday nights at the Persson Recital Hall on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach; on Saturday nights at the First Presbyterian Church in North Palm Beach, and on Sunday afternoons at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach. [Visit pbcmf.org or call 561-547-1070.]
Miami Music Festival: Five years ago, Michael Rossi, an assistant conductor at the National Opera in Washington, D.C., founded an Aspen-style educational festival in his wife’s hometown. It’s big and ambitious, with music students of all kinds giving piano and chamber music concerts, orchestral and concerto performances, and no less than eight operas.
It started out as a large effort, and it’s gotten bigger over the past five years.
“We’ve created a successful model to keep this program going in South Florida,” Rossi said. “The support has been there from donors and faculty, students and participants, and we’re just really excited that we have this, and that we have a sustainable model that will allow it to flourish for another 10, 20, even 60 years.”
This year’s festival, which consists of teaching and public concerts, lasts from June 6 to July 29. Most of its activity takes place on the campus of Barry University in Miami Shores, with additional recitals at the Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach, and other performances at the New World Center, also on Miami Beach.
The festival has two wings: the Instrumental Institutes (orchestra, piano, chamber music) and the Opera Institutes (apprentice and studio performances, a zarzuela project), and all participants – there are about 200 coming this summer – can take part in the Career Institute, under which students create business plans for their future careers.
Two years ago, Rossi added the Wagner Institute, a program designed to foster singers in Wagnerian repertoire. It’s been hugely exciting to hear this music, so rarely heard in an area whose large Jewish population, especially of Holocaust survivors, has been understandably cool to the idea of hearing operas by Hitler’s favorite composer, who was a prominent anti-Semite.
But the music remains magnificent, and last year’s performance of Act I of Die Walküre at the Knight Concert Hall was remarkable, with Soloman Howard as Hunding, Dominic Armstrong as Siegmund and Elizabeth Baldwin as Sieglinde.
This year, the institute (June 25-July 14) presents Act II of Walküre, featuring Alan Held as Wotan and Armstrong as Siegmund, and Act II of Lohengrin, with Megan Nielson as Elsa. Rossi said in a couple years, he hopes to present a fully staged performance of a Wagner opera in toto, perhaps The Flying Dutchman.
And the opera selections this year are very ambitious. In the first session of the Apprentice Program (June 6-July 1), the students will perform Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a double bill of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Medium.
The second session (July 4-July 29) presents Puccini’s La Rondine and, most remarkably, John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, which has a huge cast and a powerful, uncompromising score. Members of the Studio Program will focus on Baroque opera this summer, presenting two of the rarer operas of George Frideric Handel: Teseo (June 6-July 1) and Radamisto (July 4-29).
Some members of the Orchestral Institute perform as the orchestra for the operas, others as the Miami Music Festival Symphony; both unite as a super-orchestra for the Wagner Institute. The MMF Symphony’s concert on July 10 features the Symphony No. 10 of Shostakovich, perhaps his finest symphony, and they also perform in the concerto competition winners’ concert July 22.
Rossi is also making a point of turning the festival’s July 4 concert into a regularly expected event for South Floridians. This year, the concert includes not just standard Fourth fare, but also Copland’s Appalachian Spring and a 20-minute segment of American-themed rock tunes from the 1980s and 1990s, chiefly from Bon Jovi, Journey and Bruce Springsteen. Rossi himself, a trumpet player, will solo in that segment, he said. [The Miami Music Festival runs from June 6 to July 29; check miamimusicfestival.com later this month for public concert dates and details.]
Mainly Mozart Festival: This summer chamber festival got underway 25 years ago in Coral Gables, and has long been a point of pride for the Miznerific city. This year’s festival, which lasts from May 13 to June 28, moves from its home at the Biltmore Hotel to the new Kislak Center on the campus of the University of Miami.
Pianist Marina Radiushina (who will be seen in the Palm Beach chamber festival) has been directing the festival for the past several years along with prominent Miami attorney and arts patron Mike Eidson.
There’s plenty of Mozart, of course, beginning May 13 with the Amernet Quartet playing the Hoffmeister Quartet (No. 20 in D, K. 499), along with the Quartet No. 1 of Erwin Schulhoff, a Holocaust victim, and the popular Piano Quintet in A (Op. 81) of Dvořák, featuring Radiushina. This concert also honors the Argentine artist and writer Sebastian Spreng, a familiar face in the crowd at concerts all over South Florida.
Mezzo Raehan Bryce-Davis is the featured soloist May 20 in art songs by Mozart, Brahms, Schumann, Elgar (Sea-Pictures), Albeniz, Falla (El Amor Brujo) and William Bolcom, accompanied by the Moldovan pianist Larisa Soboleva, who also will play pieces by Scriabin and Liszt. The 18-year-old cello prodigy Zlatomir Fung is next up on May 27 with Radiushina in a program of pieces by Schumann, Beethoven, Jacques Ibert and the 18th-century Italian composer Joseph Dall’Abaco. Also on the program is the great but underappreciated Cello Sonata of Frederic Chopin.
Musicologist Frank Cooper, who co-founded the festival 25 years ago, offers lectures to go with the next two programs June 3 and June 10, on the theme of dance in music. The Bergonzi String Quartet plays pieces by Mozart, Brahms, Haydn and the Ecuadorean composer Enrique Espin-Yepez on June 3, and the Delray String Quartet follows on the 10th with music by Dvořák (the American Quartet) and Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances.
The Boca Raton-based team of pianist Darren Matias and violinist Yasa Poletaeva, the Contrast Duo, plays June 17, presenting a program of sonatas by Mozart and Brahms, pieces by Rachmaninov, Bizet and John Adams (Road Movies) and a Concert Fantasy on themes from Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess by the contemporary Russian composer and pedagogue Igor Frolov. Next, Brazilian pianist Ronaldo Rolim makes his Mainly Mozart debut June 24 with a sonata by Mozart (K. 281), Book I of the Préludes of Claude Debussy, Granados’s “Los Requiebros” (from Goyescas), and Lizst’s Three Petrarch Sonnets.
The young American trumpeter Brandon Ridenour presents a program of his own transcriptions July 1 of music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Vivaldi, Debussy, Ravel, Bartok and Gershwin, plus Bernstein’s Rondo for Lifey and the Mozart Oboe Concerto as reimagined for trumpet; Radiushina presides at the piano.
The festival concludes at Gusman Hall at UM on July 8 with a piano trio of Radiushina, violinist Francisco Fullana and cellist Joshua Roman, in an event called The Soul of Celebration, narrated by Cooper and featuring film by the documentarian Ali Habashi. [Tickets are mostly $25; visit www.mainlymozart.com.]
Other things to watch out for: Abram Kreeger’s Piano Lovers series at the Boca Steinway Gallery has expanded into a monthly series with concerts at 4 p.m. Saturdays, except for the next one in the series, an appearance by Drew Petersen at 7:30 p.m. May 21, a Monday, in a Beethoven sonata and several works by Chopin.
In line for this summer are Margarita Shevchenko (June 23) in music by Chopin and Schubert; Tian Ying (July 21) in an all-Schumann program; Asiya Korepanova (Aug. 25; no program announced yet) and Jenny Lin (Sept. 29) in music by Shostakovich, Bach and Liszt.