East End nightspots attract hundreds of 20 and 30-somethings like moths to light every summer, but a slightly more sedate crowd wends its way to more serene surroundings for classical music.
The highest notes come from the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Perlman Music Program, which sponsors a summer school for international students on Shelter Island, and Pianofest, a remarkable program of master classes and concerts for and by prizewinning pianists.
Marya Martin, a New Zealand-born flutist, and her husband, Ken Davidson, started the chamber festival in 1984 with two concerts and five instrumentalists. Now, the festival sells out 14 concerts and presents some 40 world-class instrumentalists to devoted audiences, primarily at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church. The series will start this year with a free outdoor concert on July 24 and run through Aug. 18, with two benefits in between.
The concerts of the Bridgehampton Music Festival are planned well in advance and the specifics can be found on the festival’s Web site, bcmf.org, where tickets, which for the most part range from $30 to $50, can be purchased. They go on sale Saturday. In addition to classics, recent American music is included on most of the programs this year, and a work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts will be premiered.
The Perlman Music Program is hosted by the extraordinary violinist Itzhak Perlman. Mr. Perlman’s wife, Toby Perlman, enlisted his expertise to start the school almost 20 years ago. He joins a dozen or more faculty members on the campus every year, inspiring gifted instrumentalists between the ages of 12 and 18. Mr. Perlman is known to tell students they are required to participate in the program’s chorus because using their own voices helps them learn how to make their instruments sing.
The best part — for the public that is — are numerous open workshops, master classes, and concerts, not only by students but by alumni and faculty. There are so many possible events, it’s hard to keep up with them. South Forkers need only to hop on the ferry from North Haven to get there. Classes and many concerts are free while tickets are $20 for others. Also coming up are concerts on June 7 at the Southampton Cultural Center and June 8 at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons, which cost somewhat more. The Perlman Program also sponsors concerts elsewhere and has events for well-heeled supporters at the Neue Galerie in New York City.
Paul Schenly directs Pianofest, which provides emerging piano stars with free master classes with Mr. Schenly and other notable professionals, along with room and board and a small stipend! Make no mistake, Pianofest’s Web site lists the astonishing number of prizes that past and present students have won. Awadagen Pratt, who has performed at the White House, is one of many who went on to successful careers. A number of its graduates also come back off-season to perform in solo recitals called Rising Stars at the Southampton Cultural Center.
The public will be the beneficiary this year of nine concerts, taking place on Mondays from June 17 through Aug. 5 at the Avram Theater on the Stony Brook Southampton campus from 5:30 to 7 p.m., as well as three concerts on Wednesday nights, June 19 and 26 and July 24, at Hoie Hall of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton, starting at 6 p.m. Tickets, which are sold at the door, are $20 for adults. Students 18 and under are free.
Don’t throw your calendar away, though, because these aren’t the only classical concerts around. Regional cultural centers, churches, and libraries get into the act too. The Southampton Cultural Center’s Rising Stars series, organized by Liliane Questel, herself a pianist, has seven concerts a year, although only one takes place in the resort season. Orion Weiss and Anna Polonsky will be the performers on June 8. The ticket price is $20.
The South Fork’s largest cultural institutions, Guild Hall and the Parrish Art Museum, have popular entertainments at the top of their agendas during the high season, although the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, the artistic core of St. Luke’s Orchestra, will perform at Guild Hall on Aug. 11. Tickets for this are $75.
Ruth Widder was on St. Luke’s board and will be remembered on this occasion. Ms. Widder was the wizard behind Music for Montauk, an exceptional program that until her death this year brought a score of musical genres to grade school students at the Montauk School and a free concert there for adults. Another highlight of classical music in season used to be the Music Festival of the Hamptons. It is in hiatus following the death of its directorial sparkplug, Eleanor Leonard.
The libraries fill in whenever there’s an open evening. The Montauk Library has a vintage Steinway M in its quiet Suzanne Gosman Room, which is put to good use year round. Every summer, the octogenarian composer Mira J. Spektor presents a concert by the Aviva Players, and this year, in keeping with Verdi and Wagner’s bicentennials, the library will host a program of their songs on Sunday and another, for kids as well as adults and labeled “fun,” on the folklore and magic in Wagner’s Ring on June 8.
The John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor is out of the classical running this summer, as the renovation of its charming building proceeds, but Southampton’s Rogers Memorial Library will continue showcasing outstanding artists. Olga Vinokur, a prize-winning pianist, will be onstage Sunday, and the cellist Antonio Lysy, with Neal Stulberg, a pianist and conductor, will offer a free program on June 9.
By the way, if you enjoy taking the ferry to Shelter Island, you won’t want to miss concerts at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church. The Shelter Island Friends of Music have taken advantage of the excellent acoustics there year round, bringing outstanding young talent as well as such stars as the soprano Jan de Gaetani and the pianist Richard Goode to the island. Admission is free, with donations accepted at the door. Concerts start at 8 p.m. The Linden String Quartet was on the calendar for May 18, the Wind Synch Quintet will be there on June 15, and the coloratura soprano Jeannette Vecchione on Sept. 1.
And let’s not forget the Choral Society of the Hamptons, which performs three times a year and will present part one, the Exodus, of Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” and Bach’s Cantata 79 at the Parish Hall of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton at 7 p.m. on June 29. The full complement of Choral Society members will be joined by the Greenwich Village Singers to raise the rafters of the Parish Hall, which has brilliant acoustics.
The South Fork Chamber Orchestra will buoy the vocalists and present part of one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos as an interlude. The soloists, who are known to the society’s regular audiences, are Suzanne Schwing, mezzo-soprano, and Mischa Bouvier, baritone.