The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. So here are guides to this summer’s local, national and even international festivals of classical music | May 29, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

Get out your datebooks.

Madison now has great classical music year-round, including in the summer, which long ago ceased being an artistic desert.


This summer’s offerings include:

The 25th anniversary season, filled with new music but also tried-and-true treasured masterpieces, of the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society that runs June 10-26:

The 17th annual Madison Early Music Festival, which runs from July 10-16 and will focus on William Shakespeare in honor of the 400th anniversary of his death:

The annual Madison Savoyards’ production of Gilbert & Sullivan will stage “The Gondoliers” for six performances July 29-Aug. 7:

The second season of the Willy Street Chamber Players (below):

Willy Street Chamber Players 2016 outdoors

The 27th annual Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, which runs Aug. 27-Sept 4 and this year features music celebrating water and the natural world. Programs include music by Johann Sebastian Bach,  English Renaissance music of John Dowland, William Byrd and Henry Purcell and a Wisconsin premiere by composer and co-director John Harbison plus Franz Schubert’s song cycle “Die Schöne Müllerin” and his equally famous masterpiece, the “Trout” Piano Quintet:

Plus there are a lot of smaller groups including the Madison Summer Choir and the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble, both of which have received critical acclaim. And there is the Green Lake Festival. Some I might also include the six Concerts on the Square by the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, which this year features a hefty dose of classical fare.


But if you don’t stay around town and hit the road instead, there is a lot that might interest you in the way of summer music festivals around the country. There are festivals of chamber music, orchestral music and opera.

And The Ear has always wanted to attend the Bard Music Festival (below), which emphasizes the cultural context of the music, and the Mostly Mozart Festival. One of these years! (You can hear from co-artistic director and Bard College president Leon Botstein how the unique Bard Music Festival is run in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Bard Music Festival Frank Gehry Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts hall

Here is a roundup by The New York Times, which put all kinds of genres together. Just scroll down until you hit the Classical Festivals section that was compiled and annotated by the Times’ trustworthy critic Vivien Schweitzer:

Here is a fairly comprehensive national guide from Wikipedia:

Here is a guide from two years ago, done by NPR or National Public Radio, that includes the Madison Early Music Festival and divides up the selection by regions of the country:

And for good measure, for those taking international vacations here is a guide to international music festivals:

Happy hunting and choosing. Then happy and safe traveling. And finally Happy Listening.

The Ear hopes you have a classic “classical” summer.


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