The Bowdoin International Music Festival, June 26-Aug. 7, one of the world’s best known – it was the only Maine festival listed in The New York Times summer festival preview this year – continues to evolve, with new programs, concert venues, artists, students and teachers.

This year will see the first student virtuoso series; “Extra”  special events, which replace Eurofest, and a collaboration with the Julliard Technology Center in a multi-media presentation of Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat,” with Robert Moody, music director of the Portland Symphony Ochestra, conducting. The latter will be part of the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music at Bowdoin’s Studzinsky Hall, July 29, July 31 and Aug. 1.

The festival will celebrate the 200th anniversaries of Frederic Chopin and Robert Schumann, with performances of the Schumann Piano Concerto in A-Minor, with pianist Olivier Gardon, Chopin’s rarely performed Trio and Cello Sonata, and the entire 24 Preludes, played by pianist Edward Auer.

Festival co-founder Lewis Kaplan got the idea for the virtuoso series this year during his judging of music competitions here and abroad. All of the five students awarded this recognition are winners of international competitions or performers who have appeared with major orchestras. The program gives young musicians the opportunity to perform with Bowdoin Festival faculty and join in individually designed study programs to benefit their artistic growth and careers, Kaplan said.

This year’s virtuosi are Ray Chen, winner of the Queen Elizabeth International Violin Competition in Brussels; David Coucheron, first-prize winner of the Concorso Internazionale di Musica Competition in Turin and recently appointed concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Suyoen Kim, first-prize winner at the 2006 Hannover International Violin Competition; Ben Kim, first-prize winner in the 2006 Munich International Music Competition; and Puhan Wang, the youngest finalist in the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

In addition to other performances, Chen will play the Brahms Violin Concerto on July 16; Coucheron will appear in the Dvorak String Quartet in G Major (Op. 77) on July 7 and in the premiere of the Claude Baker String Quartet No. 2 (2007) on July 14;  Suyoen Kim will play the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 on Aug. 6; Ben Kim will appear in the Schumann Andante and Variations on Aug. 4, and Wang will play the Chopin Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52 at the same Wednesday UpBeat! concert.

The Bowdoin Festival Extra series will include concerts, lectures and master classes at Brunswick’s Curtis Memorial Library, Thornton Oaks retirement community, One Longfellow Square in Portland, Harpswell’s Elijah Kellog Church, Yarmouth’s First Parish Church and the Main Deck at Sebasco Harbor Resort.

The series will open at Studzinsky Hall on June 29, with “Music, Language and Time: Thoughts on Why We Do Music,” by Robert Judd, executive director of the American Musicological Society. Another don’t-miss lecture will be July 19 at the same location, when Mary Hunter, chairwoman of the Bowdoin College Department of Music, will present “Hearing the Life in the Work? Madness, Joy, Oppression and Genius.” I’d also like to hear composer Samuel Adler of The Juilliard School ask “Why Don’t You Write Classical Music?” at Thornton Oaks on July 22.

The attractions of this year’s festival are too many to enumerate in a single column (more information at www.summermusic.org), but the Monday Sonata Series is always a good bet, beginning with the New England premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’  “Dream Catcher” and ending with the Leos Janacek Violin Sonata, with Muneko Otani, violin, and Ben Kim piano, plus the Brahms Viola Sonata in F. Minor, Op. 120, with Roger Chase, viola, and Puhan Wang, piano. For good measure, that concert opens with the Debussy Violin Sonata, featuring Joan Kwuon, violin, and Constance Moore, piano.

 

Christopher Hyde is a writer and musician who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:
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