The crown jewel of chamber music festivals on Long Island — arguably anywhere on the East Coast — opens its 34th season July 30 with celebrity narration by Alan Alda.
In a return engagement, Alda, longtime supporter of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, reads excerpts of letters exchanged by Johannes Brahms starting in 1853 with Robert and Clara Schumann. The narration tells their story of friendship, love and desperation due to mental illness, amplified in their music: Robert’s Romances for Flute and Piano, Clara’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano and a Brahms piano quartet and two other selections. The concert, “Brahms & the Schumanns: Love, Genius, Madness,” also features Marya Martin, virtuoso flutist and the festival’s founding director.
With 12 concerts in five weeks, this summer’s theme is reflected in the East End setting. “What better way to recognize the deep connection between the festival and the beach,” Martin says, “than by building a season where water and sea are always close at hand?”
Among the highlights: The world premiere Aug. 9 of Elizabeth Brown’s “Island Nocturnes,” commissioned for the festival; Vivaldi’s “Storm at Sea” concerto in a free outdoor event Aug. 2; works by Debussy, Ravel and Philip Glass performed at the Parrish Art Museum amid Clifford Ross’ “Light | Waves” exhibit; and in the Aug. 27 finale, Pulitzer winner Kevin Puts’ “Seven Seascapes.” Guitarist Stephane Wrembel headlines the “Bach & Django” concert Aug. 18, also featuring Emerson String Quartet cellist Paul Watkins, at Channing Daughters Winery’s sculpture garden.
Meanwhile, a Hamptons perennial, Pianofest — concerts by accomplished student musicians — runs June 26-Aug. 14 at various venues, principally Stony Brook Southampton.
Other classical music/dance offerings are one-nighters. At Guild Hall, a New York Philharmonic chamber ensemble performs with soprano Susanna Phillips on June 24; Pilobolus dances gymnastically July 15; 21st century string quartet ETHEL plays music by Shelter Island’s Bruce Wolosoff and other contemporaries Aug. 13; and New York City Ballet dancers present repertoire excerpts Aug. 18. And at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, the all-male “Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo” steps off Aug. 26 in size-12 pointe slippers.