Take some of the world’s finest musicians, both veterans and rising talents, pair them with the rock-solid classics and some cutting-edge contemporary works, and wrap it all in an atmosphere of relaxed elegance and charm. That seems to be the successful formula for the 31-year-old Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, which runs from Wednesday to Aug. 24.
The festival began in 1984 with just two concerts and five artists. It has grown to 12 concerts over a three-and-a-half-week period, and it is said to be the longest-running classical music festival on Long Island.
“Russian Memories,” a free outdoor concert on the grounds of the Bridgehampton Museum, starts the festival on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. There will be rich, melodic gems by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Borodin, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninov, for strings and flute, to be accompanied by your own blanket and picnic. Although this very popular program is free, reservations are required.
A series of programs called the Classic Six forms the heart of the festival. These are on Sunday evenings at 6:30 and Wednesdays at 7:30, and have enticing titles such as “Brilliance and Soul,” “Colorful Expectations,” and “Something’s in the Air.” Fauré, Beethoven, Handel, Dvorak, Mendelssohn, and Mozart are some of the masters represented. There are also three hourlong “Saturday Soirées” at 6:30 p.m., a relatively new format designed to provide a “refreshing musical jumpstart to your evening.”
There is a benefit concert on Aug. 2 at the Atlantic Golf Club featuring Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat. “Baroque Fantasy,” the annual Wm. Brian Little Concert, named after a late member of the festival’s board, will be held on Aug. 15 in the picturesque sculpture garden of the Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton, offering wines and “delectable edibles” with the music.
Most programs are held in the beautiful and acoustically rich Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, with single programs in three other venues. This year the festival is branching out even more with a new venue and partnership with the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill.
Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet that has been called “one of New York’s hippest young classical music ensembles,” will perform an hourlong program there at 9 p.m. on Aug. 9. Cabaret-style seating and a glass of wine will be available to listeners.
The concert will be performed back-to-back with an earlier Soirée version of the same program at the church. So take your pick: Enjoy Haydn and music written in 2013 and 2014 either before or after dinner.
Along with offerings of some of the tried and true classics by the masters, the festival always spices it up with a sampling of contemporary pieces, a good number of which it has commissioned. On the top of the list this year will be a world premiere by the Academy Award, Grammy Award, and Golden Globe Award-winning composer Howard Shore. Best known for his scores for the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, he also has a classical bent. “A Palace Upon the Ruins,” with words by Elizabeth Cotnoir, was commissioned by the festival and the La Jolla Music Society and will premiere on Aug. 10. It is scored for mezzo-soprano, flute, cello, piano, harp, and percussion; the rising young mezzo Jennifer Johnson Cano will be heard as the soloist.
Other recently composed works on this season’s program are Eric Ewazen’s “Bridgehampton Suite,” Phillippe Hersant’s “Helliades,” Kevin Puts’s “Four Airs,” and other compositions by Gabriel Kahane, Evan Ziporyn, and Aoife O’Donovan — some of these composers may be favorites of B.C.M.F. veterans — as well as William Bolcom and Ned Rorem.
This season, joining the flutist Marya Martin, who has been the festival’s artistic director since it began, is Ani Kavafian, a violinist who was also on the roster for the very first festival and has been a regular since then. Of the 40-plus musicians appearing onstage this year, some of the regulars include Cynthia Phelps, a violist, Carter Brey, a cellist, and Donald Palma, a double bassist. More recent participants who are returning are Jennifer Frautschi and Stefan Jackiw on violin, Beth Guterman and Richard O’Neill on viola, Clive Greensmith and Michael Nicolas on cello, and the pianists Gilles Vonsattel and Shai Wosner.
To keep things interesting, B.C.M..F always adds some new voices into the mix. Among the newcomers will be Anthony Marwood on violin, Antonio Lysy on cello, Bridget Kibbey on harp, and Ian David Rosenbaum, a percussionist.
Especially noteworthy is Joyce Yang, who represents in a sense both the new and the veteran. She first appeared as a pianist at the festival when she was in her early teens. Now, at the age of 27, she returns for two programs on Aug. 2 and 3. The Washington Post has said of Ms. Yang, “Her attention to detail and clarity is as impressive as her agility, balance, and velocity.”
And if all of this isn’t enough, B.C.M.F. has just released its fourth CD, called “bcmflive2013,” with selections from last season by Boccherini, Brahms, and Purcell, and three works commissioned by the festival, by Leon Kirchner, Bruce Adolphe, and Robert Beaser.
Most tickets range from $35 to $55, or for the Wm. Brian Little concert, $100 and $150. There is much more information about the programs, tickets, and CDs at bcmf.org or 537-6368.