East End night spots may attract hundreds of 30 and 40-somethings like moths to light every summer, but a slightly older crowd wends its way to more serene surroundings for classical music.
At the top of the spectrum are the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, the Perlman Music Program’s summer school, based at a former camp on Shelter Island, and Pianofest, a remarkable program of master classes and concerts for and by international prize-winning pianists.
Maria Mannes, 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 puts on 14 concerts and presents 40 or renowned musicians to devoted audiences who fill every seat at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, where most of the concerts are held, and rave about the acoustics as well as the performances. The series runs from late July to mid-August.
Ms. Mannes attracts internationally acclaimed musicians, but the Perlman Music Program is actually hosted by one – the extraordinary Itzhak Perlman. Mr. Perlman and his wife, Toby, started the school almost 20 years ago to train the best young musicians from around the world. A dozen or so other faculty members join them every year, inspiring 40 instrumentalists between the ages of 12 and 18. The students play in chamber groups and an orchestra and chorus participation is mandatory, Mr. Perlman has said, because it helps students learn how to make their instruments sing.
As far as the public goes, however, the best part are numerous open workshops, master classes, and concerts by students, 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 find uplifting music. The also program has events for well-heeled supporters at the Neue Galerie in New York City. That Mr. Perlman is on campus full time when school is in session and that no student is turned away because of inability to pay add to the program’s aura.
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 its 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.
The public is the beneficiary, too. In 2013 there are nine Monday concerts at the Avram Theater on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton and three more on Wednesday nights in June and July at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton.
The Southampton Cultural Center has had a piano recital series called Rising Stars for 10 years. Organized by Liliane Questel, a pianist herself, the series presents young artists who exemplify the program’s title seven times a year, although only one concert takes place in the resort season. Orion Weiss and Anna Polonsky are the stars in June. The area’s bigger cultural institutions, Guild Hall and the Parrish Art Museum, have popular entertainment in mind during the season.
Filling in whenever they can find an open evening are some of the South Fork libraries. 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. Southampton”s Rogers Memorial Library will continue showcasing outstanding artists.
Finally, if you haven’t hopped on the ferry for the Perlman concerts, take a little unHamptons outing to a concert 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.
And let’s not forget the Choral Society of the Hamptons, which performs three times a year in several churches.