The Bowdoin International Music Festival (continuing through Aug. 3) is an embarrassment of riches — so many concerts, so little time, and at the height of the Maine regional festival season too. And then one begins to regret what one hasn’t seen and heard. Maybe there should be a complete, searchable archive of each BIMF. It would make life easier for everyone.

All of the events of the BIMF are well worth hearing, including the student recitals and the youth orchestra. If the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela can offer the best performance of “The Rite of Spring” in a century, why shouldn’t we expect the same of an orchestra composed of students from around the world?

Anyway, here’s a list of what I’d like to hear during the remainder of the festival, in terms of composition rather than performance.

Let’s begin with Festival Fridays, the primary showcase of the event at Crooker Theater of Brunswick High School. They are usually, but not always, sold out. I’m assuming that anyone who could wrangle a ticket went to the all-American concert last Friday featuring works by Ives, Gershwin, Barber and Copland.

My next Friday choice would be the Saint-Saens Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22, on July 26, followed by an unusual Fantasy Sonata for Viola and Harp by Arnold Bax on July 19, and a Grand Duo Concertante for Violin and Double Bass by Giovanni Bottesini on July 12.

Wednesday Upbeat! at Studzinski Recital Hall is usually a little more democratic, casual and far out. This year is no exception, with works by Mahler, Schnitke and Bolcom this Wednesday and Stravinsky, Schumann and Bartok on July 17. In mid-career, on July 24, will occur the most far-out of all, with Derek Bermel playing his own “Coming Together” for cello and clarinet, followed by the chamber music of Josef Suk, Paul Schoenfield and Bedrich Smetana.

The final concert, on July 31, will feature Arnold Schoenberg’s “Verklarte Nacht” in a version for string sextet and the Schubert String Quartet in C Major, D. 956.

Monday Sonatas, also at the air-conditioned Studzinski Hall, are always a good bet, as faculty members have a chance to play their favorite works for solo and duet. If you take a guilty pleasure in piano virtuosity as I do, don’t miss Ravel’s “La Valse” transcription played by Emma Tahmizian this Monday. I also want to hear Ma Sicong’s “Inner Mongolia Suite” on July 22, if only for its title.

Last but not least is the noted Charles E. Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music on July 25, 27 and 28. This festival within a festival is devoted to new work by resident and visiting composers, student composers and the winner of this year’s student composition competition, Andrew McManus.

For music lovers who throw up their hands when “modern” composition is mentioned, the Gamper will come as a revelation. Gone are the burbles and squeaks, the slavish observance of compositional systems and the deadly seriousness.

Last year’s works were not only fascinating but often deeply-felt and moving, going to the heart of what music is. Best of all, they were accessible and enjoyable to anyone with an ear.

Gamper concerts, at Studzinski Hall, are open to the public, with a suggested donation of $10.

Not even a donation is needed to attend the myriad workshops, lectures, demonstrations and student recitals taking place throughout the month at the festival. Visit for details.

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

[email protected]


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