Classical Performances Worth The Drive This Summer

The Shalin Liu Performance Center overlooking the ocean at sunset. (Robert Benson Photography)
The Shalin Liu Performance Center overlooking the ocean at sunset. (Robert Benson Photography)

For summer music, you want to find something off the beaten path, maybe with adventurous programming, and certainly with lots of ambiance.

Eastern Massachusetts

You probably won’t find a better looking hall than the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, with its stage-to-ceiling glass window looking out to the sea. And this summer you probably won’t find better chamber music either.

Yo-Yo Ma, in a rare solo recital, starts the Rockport Chamber Music Festival June 5. Continuing through Aug. 1 with five concerts a week, RCMF brings Peter Serkin, Emmanuel Ax, Marc-André Hamelin, the Shanghai and Escher quartets, Matt Aucoin and a host of other notables to the North Shore. Artistic director and pianist David Deveau also sits in on several programs.

On June 2, Trio Cleonice performs a world premiere by Richard Wernick, the Pulitzer Prize-winner’s “Sonata for Two.” It’s a family affair: The trio’s cellist, Gwen Krosnick, will be joined by her father Joel, retiring cellist from the Juilliard String Quartet, for the premiere. Violist Samuel Rhodes from the Juilliards also joins in for the rest of the program at United Parish Church in Brookline.

The Landmarks Orchestra, under the baton of Christopher Wilkins, starts its annual Hatch Shell Wednesdays on July 15—early programs (7 p.m.), casual and kid-friendly, perfect for a last minute outing. A good place to enjoy a picnic on the lawn. Highlights this summer include Fiesta Sinfónica July 22, featuring Copland, salsa and mambo; Italian night (Aug. 5), with opera selections; and a fully staged “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in a collaboration with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Aug. 26.

This month, the biennial Boston Early Music Festival invades the city with all sorts of Baroque and Renaissance music, literally day and night. Visit the BEMF website for a complete listing, and try to see one of the Monteverdi three-pack of operas — "Ulisse," "Poppea" and "Orfeo" — the centerpiece of this year’s festival. Runs June 7–13.

And Odyssey Opera still has one more Englishman to contend with in their British Invasion — Thomas Adès. The prolific composer’s “Powder Her Face” runs June 18-20 at Boston Conservatory.

A summertime trip over the Sagamore or Bourne bridges better be worth it, and the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival makes sure that it is. This year’s concerts (July 31-Aug. 28, at various Cape locations) includes a residency by the Jupiter Quartet, giving three concerts Aug. 18-21 (the Emerson and Danish string quartets also appear this summer). Of particular note is the Aug. 21 performance in Wellfleet, with pianist Brian Zeger joining Jupiter for the Brahms C minor quartet.

Also on the Cape, with a much lower profile but sturdy programs, is pianist Donald Enos’s excellent Meeting House Chamber Music Festival, starting its 42nd year on June 21. Cellist Amit Peled, who is touring with Pablo Casals’ 1733 Gofriller instrument, gives an all-Shostakovich recital with Enos on July 3.


The Berkshires

The Boston Symphony Orchestra officially opens the Tanglewood season July 3 with guests Jessye Norman (narrating “Lincoln Portrait”) and pianist Kirill Gerstein, working with conductor Jacques Lacombe. Summer highlights are many: On the large-scale side, Andris Nelsons conducts Mahler 8 with a Shed-full of singers and instrumentalists on Aug. 8. On the more intimate side, Yo-Yo, Emmanuel Ax and Leonidas Kavakos perform all three Brahms trios in Ozawa Hall Aug. 6, and the incomparable violinist Christian Tetzlaff gives a fiendishly difficult recital of music by Ysaÿe, Bach, Kurtág and Bartok Aug. 12.


Yellow Barn, in Putney, Vermont, is built around its artist residency program, bringing musicians at every level to the bucolic setting. The concert series, July 10-Aug. 8, is eclectic and challenging — a true summer adventure. The music of composer in residence Jörg Widmann gets featured during the last week of the festival.

Violaine Melançon, Ari Isaacman-Beck, Ahrim Kim and Maria Lambros performing in a Yellow Barn concert. (Zachary Stephens)
Violaine Melançon, Ari Isaacman-Beck, Ahrim Kim and Maria Lambros performing in a Yellow Barn concert. (Zachary Stephens)

Just a short drive east of Putney, Marlboro Music has been giving its own summer concerts since 1951. Weekend performances from July 18-Aug. 16 mix and match students and instructors. In the fine Marlboro tradition, programs (and performers) aren’t announced beforehand. Find out when you get there; it’s usually worth it.

New Hampshire

Monadnock Music, which runs July 10–Aug. 7 in Peterborough, New Hampshire, begins a five-year cycle of Beethoven symphonies this year with Nos. 1 and 3. Most of the dozen or so other concerts feature artistic director Gil Rose’s musicians from his Boston Modern Orchestra Project (one concert, July 18, features the whole gang). Guitarist Zaira Meneses makes an appearance July 19, with an expansive program ranging from Brouwer to Bach.

Artistic director Heng-Jin Park’s Halcyon Music Festival brings two weeks of concerts to the New Hampshire seacoast at three different venues, beginning July 23. A program called “Madness and Ecstasy” on July 24 looks like fun, with the Schumann piano quintet (guessing that’s the madness), and the Brahms Op. 40 horn trio for ecstasy.

Newburyport Chamber Music Festival performs its week-long series beginning Aug. 8 in various historic venues (from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Newburyport and Newbury, Massachusetts). A collaboration with Exit Dance, spotlighting music for shakuhachi and other non-traditional chamber instruments, highlights the festival on Aug. 15. George Crumb’s “Black Angels,” an atmospheric treat, gets two performances (Aug. 13, 16) as well.

Keith Powers Classical Music Writer
Keith Powers is a classical music critic for The ARTery.



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