Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival’s ‘Destination America’

"Taking stock at year 35"
At one of last year’s Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival concerts, Kristin Lee demonstrated some rigorous violin playing while Orion Weiss was at the piano. Michael Lawrence

The Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival is celebrating its 35th anniversary from July 19 to Aug. 19. The festival, with 18 concerts and a variety of interesting and stimulating events, has “Destination America” as its overarching theme.

“There’s something about taking stock at year 35, and thinking about life and how lucky we are that we have all these wonderful musicians, and all the influences they bring to bear in their music making,” Marya Martin, the founder and artistic director of the festival, said last week. “Out of 43, something like 25 were not born in America, though most of them now live here. I think it is only five that we bring from various countries.”

“And then of course you look at the composers. There are many composers who came to this country because they loved what America had to offer, but also to escape the ills of the world; and America was one place where they could come and realize a wonderful life. There’s something about celebrating that at our 35th year that just feels very right.”

Among the composers represented will be those who came to flee oppression (Igor Stravinsky, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Arnold Schoenberg, Bohuslav Martinu, and Erno Dohnanyi), to explore new opportunities (Antonin Dvorak, Astor Piazzolla, Osvaldo Golijov, and Zhou Tian), or are the descendants of slaves (William Grant Still) or immigrants (Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Philip Glass, John Corigliano, Paul Moravec, Bruce MacCombie, George Tsontakis, Mark O’Connor, Jennifer Higdon, and Kenji Bunch), according to a release.

Highlights of the month include a free outdoor concert on July 25, “Waltzes to Tangos: The Art of the Dance,” on the lawn of Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church. The annual Wm. Brian Little Concert on Aug. 10 will be a Bernstein centennial program that celebrates the friendship between Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, with “Appalachian Spring” and songs by the two composers performed by the internationally known opera star Nathan Gunn, who is appearing with the festival for the first time. At the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill on Aug. 6, what has been an annual event is also now an all-American program, called “American Dreams.”

Composers from the established European canon will also be well represented, including Haydn, Strauss, Fauré, Schubert, Schumann, and Franck, and in programs such as “Mozart and More” (Aug. 5), Beethoven’s “Ghosts” (Aug. 15), and “An Evening of Bach Sonatas” (Aug.18).

The actor Alan Alda will appear for his third season as the host and narrator for a composer portrait program, in two performances, on July 22 and 23, a Sunday and a Monday. This time it will be about a well-known composer, Felix Mendelssohn, and his less-well-known sister, Fanny Mendelssohn, who is only recently receiving the attention and exposure that she deserves.

“Fanny was younger, a female, and told by her father to stop composing, find a guy, get married, and have kids,” Ms. Martin said. “Sometimes, to get her works played in important places, Felix would put his name on the score!” The concert will include her Piano Trio in D minor.

“The Octet is the last piece of music on the program, is such an incredible piece, and Felix composed it when he was 16. It’s mind-boggling!” she said.

A benefit concert will be held at the Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton on July 28, with selections from Vivaldi’s and Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons,” as well as John Corigliano’s “Voyage for Flute and Strings,” composed in 1983. Cocktails and dinner will follow.

As a new feature to kick off this anniversary year, there will be five “pop-up concerts” by the Rolston String Quartet at various times on July 19 to 21 at the Southampton Arts Center (a family program on July 19), the Parrish, the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor, and the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack. The Rolston Quartet, from Canada, won first prize at the Banff International String Quartet Competition in 2016.

Ms. Martin said that in trying these pop-up concerts as a “prelude” to the main season of events, “we wanted to do something that celebrated community and music. It’s an experiment, and I’m excited about it.” These 45-minute concerts are free, but reservations have been strongly recommended.

The festival has commissioned two new compositions that will be premiered this summer: On Aug. 5, a work for piano and winds by Mr. Bunch will have its first hearing, and for the last concert of the season, on Aug. 19, “A New Country,” a commissioned song cycle by Mr. Moravec, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, will be premiered, heard alongside the music of Brahms.

“I wanted to include Walt Whitman because I’m a big fan, and because he’s a Long Islander,” Mr. Moravec said last week. “I also wanted it to be about New York, and about immigration. There are three texts from Walt Whitman, excerpts from his larger poems, all having to do with his attitude toward immigration, and in particular to the Irish, which was the large immigrant group in his own experience. I had never set ‘The New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus, the poem that is about the Statue of Liberty and New York as an immigrant port,” with the familiar line, “Give me your tired, your poor. . . .”

The mezzo-soprano for that occasion will be Jennifer Johnson Caro, who made her Metropolitan Opera debut in the 2009-10 season, and since then has logged more than 100 performances at the Met. “A New Country” is scored for flute, violin, viola, cello, and piano, in addition to voice.

“One thing to listen for is the use of musical motifs. . . . There are motifs that occur throughout and across the five songs, and they give musically a unified whole composition,” Mr. Moravec said. “The songs are integrated structurally and musically. The work has an abstract dramatic arc across the five songs.”

An earlier festival commission by Mr. Moravec, the 2003 Chamber Symphony for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Cello, Piano, and Percussion, will be heard again on Aug. 12.

Among the performers who are returning to the festival’s roster are Frank Huang, violin, Richard O’Neill, cello, Stewart Rose, horn, Gilles Vonsattel, piano, and Kenneth Weiss, a Long Island native, harpsichord. Onstage for the first time will be Ran Dank, an Israeli pianist, Alexi Kenny, a violinist and the recipient of a 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant, and Mihai Marica, a Romanian-born cellist.

Locations, days, and times of the concerts vary, but the six “Core Classics” concerts take place on Sundays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, the festival’s main venue. Tickets range from $35 to $75 for most concerts, $10 for students. Much more information, including a complete list of performers and works to be performed, is at bcmf.org, or 631-537-6368 after Sunday.

“I’m really excited about our anniversary, because in the old days, people said to us, ‘This will never work,’ ” Ms. Martin recalled. “And we were putting on only two concerts that first year. ‘Save your time and energy. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’ It’s not that I want to prove them wrong, but I’m so very happy that there is a place here for good music.”

Ani Kavafian and Marya MartinMichael Nemeth