Portland Chamber Music Festival returns for its 26th year on Aug. 8 with a new artistic director.

As the calendar flips to Aug. 1, I remove one music festival flyer from my fridge door and tape on another.

On Friday in Brunswick, it’s farewell for the 55th edition of the Bowdoin International Music Festival. As Maine’s biggest and most prestigious such event, it’s appropriate to go out with a bang, and that’s what co-artistic directors David and Phillip Ying have in mind.

For the 26th year, the Portland Chamber Music Festival tunes up for its annual four-concert series, beginning Aug. 8. This year also marks the inaugural season for Melissa Reardon, who was named artistic director a year ago.

Bowdoin International Music Festival

Maine’s biggest summertime gathering of classical musicians takes place for six weeks every year at the Bowdoin International Music Festival. This Friday marks the grand finale of the 55th edition, and co-artistic directors David and Phillip Ying (cellist and violist of the famed Ying String Quartet) have chosen to go out with a grand flourish.

There’s a lot of diversity of instrumentation, running from harp to harpsichord, and the program includes a major orchestral work with no fewer than three featured soloists.

It’s also scheduled for the largest concert venue available to the festival, Crooker Theater at Brunswick High School.


The first piece on the program is Carl Maria von Weber’s “Invitation to the Dance,” an early exemplar of the Romantic style that was originally written for solo piano. It is best known in an orchestrated version by Hector Berlioz, but this Friday’s performance will be a new arrangement by clarinet virtuoso Todd Palmer. The second item will be the sixth and last of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

The biggest piece will conclude the evening and the festival: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. A full orchestra, comprising festival faculty and top students, will be conducted by guest maestro Angel Gil-Ordonez. Also up front and center will be three virtuoso soloists: violinist Robin Scott, cellist Ahrim Kim and pianist Elinor Freer.

A few weeks ago I chatted with Phillip Ying about the scope of this final concert. “It’s a rare opportunity for people to experience the full range of musical forces available in this festival,” he said.

The festival was established in 1965 by Lewis Kaplan and Robert K. Beckwith, the late Bowdoin College professor of music. Kaplan helmed it for 50 seasons before stepping down. Since then the Ying brothers, both of whom are professors at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, have run it.

When I spoke with Phillip Ying a few weeks ago, he stressed that no major changes are anticipated. They like and admire what Kaplan created, and simply wish to build upon and enhance the festival’s strengths whenever possible.

Catch the final concert of the 2019 Bowdoin International Music Festival at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at Brunswick High School, 116 Maquoit Road. Call 373-1400 or visit BowdoinFestival.org.


Portland Chamber Music Festival

Six days after the final notes sound in Brunswick, the first notes of the Port City’s own classical music festival will be heard. And 25 years after the Portland Chamber Music Festival’s founding artistic director, Portland native Jenny Elowitch, stepped on the stage to introduce her new event, there’s a new musician at the helm.

Viola virtuoso Melissa Reardon, who was a frequent guest artist, was selected last year and introduced as the new artistic director; 2019 marks her first season at the top. Reardon is an internationally renowned performer whose solo and chamber playing spans all musical genres. She’s a founding member of the East Coast Chamber Orchestra and she’s toured internationally with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project.

Reardon hasn’t tinkered with the festival’s time-tested basic model. About two dozen musicians, many drawn from the ranks of U.S. conservatory professors and first-chair orchestra members, will play four evenings at the Abromson Community Education Center in Portland, plus a couple of ancillary concerts in other Port City venues.

Reardon’s chosen repertoire runs the gamut from the Classical and Romantic periods to the 20th century and contemporary pieces written by living composers. Showcasing contemporary music has been a staple of the festival from the get-go. For 2019, three of Reardon’s four main concerts include a contemporary piece.

Reardon’s concert schedule forms a thematic crescendo. The first is titled “Threads,” and it’s followed by “Fragments,” “Masterworks” and “Grand Finale.”

The Aug. 8 opener includes pieces by Bohuslav Martinu, a 20th-century Czech composer, and Ernst von Dohnany, a 20th-century Hungarian. The contemporary composer is Gabriela Lena Frank.

The four principal concerts of the Portland Chamber Music Festival are slated for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8, 10, 15 and 17 at Hannaford Hall at the Abromson Community Education Center, 88 Bedford St., Portland, on the University of Southern Maine campus. Call 800-320-0257 or visit PCMF.org.

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