The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This weekend will bring the conclusion of the exciting and intriguing Bard Music Festival that this year is exploring the music and world of Igor Stravinsky. Which music festivals do you recommend? | August 17, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

Many classical music festivals, in the summer and throughout the year, interest me and I would be happy to attend them. But only a relatively few really call me or beckon me or tempt me to attend.

One is the Van Cliburn competition for AMATEURS, not the professional one. Another is the Gilmore Festival, which chooses winners not really by individual competition – or at least conscious competition – but rather by judges who follow the careers of various pianists and then hand out the awards.

Another festival I would like to attend is the Oregon Bach Festival because Johann Sebastian Bach’s body of work is so rich. A fourth is the annual summer International Keyboard Festival at Mannes School of Music in New York City because it includes relatively unknown performers, intriguing programs and very intriguing master classes.

But a  major orchestral festival that calls me strongly is the annual summer music festival at Bard College in New York State’s Hudson River Valley, whose president Leon Botstein plans and leads the events, (Below is Leon Botstein in conducting the American Symphony Orchestra last Saturday in a photo by Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times. At bottom, in a YouTube video, you can hear him discussing his “Classics Declassified” series.)

Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra at the 2013 Bard Music Festival devoted to Stravinsky CR Hiroko Masuike NYT

Critic Zachary Woolfe of The New York Times this past week gave a terrific account of the opening weekend of the festival, which this year is devoted to Igor Stravinsky (below). It will finish up this weekend and I expect to post something about its conclusion.

Igor Stravinsky young with score 2

Woolfe (below) makes all the right points about why I find the festival at Bard so tempting, from the quality and importance of the music and often unusual repertoire to the fine performances and performers as well as the unusual angle or focal point that is often adopted.

Zachary Woolfe NYTIMES

Here is a link to Woolfe’s readable and detailed account. See if it doesn’t make you, like me, want to attend the festival:

Which music festivals have you most enjoyed and would recommend?

Which ones would you most like to attend?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. While living in Massachusetts, we got to attend Tanglewood every summer. I particularly remember one concert held inside a new wooden concert hall, featuring the then-young Yo-Yo Ma. The setting is idyllic. Manicured lawns remind one of an English estate. I agree– Tanglewood is a step up from Ravinia, although I remember a glorious concert there by Renee Fleming and a number of chamber recitals in their smaller hall: most notably, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson. Many years ago I attended the Bayreuth Wagner festival for a very stark (for the time) performance of “The Flying Dutchman.” It was just when the Berlin Wall came down, and I remember screaming headlines in German, which I couldn’t read. And lastly, the Oregon Bach Festival tops my go-to list, along with the Glimmerglass Opera festival in Cooperstown, New York.

    Comment by Ann Boyer — August 17, 2013 @ 8:50 am

    • Ann’s right about the OR Bach Fest. I met Tony Blog there while I was trying to locate Wayne Livingston to get a copy of his br 5tet. And Jake, I would never have left the IAA job if I hadn’t gotten a demand for a physical exam for the draft. The pay @ Interlochen was peanuts but included rm/bd & as you said, the kids were terrific. The World Youth Symphony Orchestra there is truly world-class. Tuesday “Challenges” were totally cut-throat. Our colossal misadventure in Vietnam gave rise to the ONLY thing I have in common with Dick Cheney: avoiding Vietnam via student draft deferment.

      Comment by Larry Retzack — August 17, 2013 @ 10:10 am

  2. As a former National Music Camp staffer–Music Librarian–of course I love to attend the NMC, partly because Van Cliburn traditionally played benefit concerts there to support the NMC & Interlochen Arts Academy. While living in Japan, I once almost applied for a summer job in the Berkshires which, I guess, is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Just this past year, however, I almost applied for a music librarian job at the Aspen (CO) Festival, another world class summer event that would surely be a wonderful site to hear some great, serious music.

    Comment by Larry Retzack — August 17, 2013 @ 12:36 am

    • Hi Larry.
      I have heard Van Cliburn, playing in knickers, at the National Music Camp at Interlochen. He did the the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto and it was great. He still possessed electrifying double octaves!! The kids were super and I had a lot of fun.
      Aspen is a great choice I didn’t mention, especially for chamber music.
      Tanglewood would also be terrific I think, a step above Ravinia, I suspect, but much like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra festival. Both would be fun to attend, but I just don’t feel as compelled as with some others.
      Maybe that is because of the big size and huge crowds or because of my keyboard and chamber music interests.
      I don’t want to sit on a lawn. I want to be in a small hall and a good seat close up to the music.
      Thanks for reading and replying.

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 17, 2013 @ 6:17 am

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