© 2024 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source. Celebrating 75 Years!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Get Out And Hear Music: Classical Summer Festivals 2012

Music and food mix well on the lawn of the Ravinia Festival outside Chicago. This year's edition runs through Sept. 9.
Ravinia Festival
Music and food mix well on the lawn of the Ravinia Festival outside Chicago. This year's edition runs through Sept. 9.

With the July Fourth holiday behind us, now is the time to map out a musical adventure. Below is a sampling of just a few of the dozens of summer classical music festivals around the country, grouped by region. From outdoor extravaganzas and picturesque locales to intimate indoor settings, live music thrives in the summertime. Been to a good summer fest not listed here? Tell us all about it.


  • The Caramoor Summer Music Festival (through Aug. 8) in Katona, N.Y., spotlights the Manhattan-based Orchestra of St. Luke's with pianist Emanuel Ax (July 15), and the terrific string quartets Brooklyn Rider (July 20) and the Pacifica Quartet (July 27). Conductor Will Crutchfield continues his Bel Canto at Caramoor series with Bellini's opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi (July 21).
  • Bard Summerscape, a smartly programmed festival on the Bard College campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., runs through Aug. 19, featuring opera, orchestral music, theater, dance and film. This year focuses on Camille Saint-Saens and features performances of the composer's orchestral and chamber music, including a reworked version of Carnival of the Animals. Leon Botstein leads performances of Emmanuel Chabrier's rarely heard comic opera The King In Spite of Himself (July 27 - Aug. 5).
  • This year the Mostly Mozart Festival at New York's Lincoln Center (July 28 - Aug. 25) is for the birds, exploring an avian theme with music by composers as diverse as Mozart and Messiaen and bird walks through Central Park. Guest artists include the superb pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (playing Bartok) and violinist Lisa Batiashvili (playing Beethoven).
  • Glimmerglass Opera, tucked into a pretty lakeside setting near Cooperstown, N.Y., runs through Aug. 25 with productions of Verdi's Aida, Meredith Wilson's The Music Man, Lully's rarely staged Armide and Weill's Lost in the Stars with singers including Eric Owens, Michelle Johnson and Dwayne Croft.
  • The seaside resort town of Bridgehampton, N.Y. has its own summer Chamber Music Festival. It gets underway with a performance by Brooklyn Rider (July 26) and concludes four weeks later with violinist Ani Kavafian and pianist Gilles Vonsattel heading up a program of Brahms, Boccherini and Shostakovich.
  • The rolling hills of southern Vermont play host to the 61-year-old Marlboro Festival. The festival is more like a seven week musical retreat, led by pianists Richard Goode and Mitsuko Uchida. After three weeks of rehearsals, weekend concerts run July 14-Aug. 10. Guest artists this year include Jonathan Biss, Kim Kashkashian and composers Lera Auerbach and William Bolcom.
  • The Tanglewood Festival, celebrating its 75th year (through Sept. 2), is more than just the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which plays this year under guest conductors Christoph Eschenbach, John Williams and Andris Nelsons. You can also catch almost all of Brahms' solo piano music performed in four concerts by German specialist Gerard Oppitz, as well as Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust led by Charles Dutoit.

  • Chicago's Ravinia Festival, running since 1904, features the hometown Chicago Symphony Orchestra plus a broad range of music through Sept. 9, from Joshua Bell to James Taylor. James Conlon leads the orchestra in Mozart's Idomeneo and Magic Flute and welcomes such guests as pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yefim Bronfman and Denis Matsuev.
  • Each summer the Cleveland Orchestra heads for the Cuyahoga Valley to host the Blossom Festival (through Sept. 2). Violinist Gil Shaham plays Beethoven with the orchestra on (July 28), pianist Yuja Wang plays Tchaikovsky (Aug. 11) and rising opera star Angela Meade sings in an evening of opera (Aug. 5).
  • There are a few days left in Oklahoma's OK Mozart Festival in Bartlesville, including the grand finale concerts (July 16-17) featuring the resident Amici New York Orchestra and guest artist Esperanza Spalding.
  • WEST

  • The Cabrillo Festival (July 28-Aug. 12), headed by conductor Marin Alsop, celebrates 50 "fearless" years of presenting contemporary music. The Hidden World of Girls, a multimedia festival commission, features music by Laura Karpman and stories by the Kitchen Sisters, while the discovery concert includes new music by James MacMillan, Huang Ruo and Carlos Chavez.
  • Conductor Robert Spano directs his first summer at the Aspen Music Festival (through Aug. 19), where the theme is music made in America. Three groups of composers link the music: current American masters, émigrés from afar (from Rachmaninov to Stravinsky) and the early Americans who trained in Europe and returned to develop an American sound. Highlights this year include Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, Harbison's The Great Gatsby and Mozart's Magic Flute.
  • Also in prime Colorado ski country is the Bravo Vail Valley Festival (through Aug. 2) which pulls in not only great musicians but entire orchestras for concerts. For its 25th anniversary season, the New York Philharmonic, the Dallas Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra are scheduled.
  • Music @ Menlo, in the heart of Silicon Valley, turns 10 this year. David Finckel (the Emerson Quartet cellist) and pianist Wu Han, festival directors, serve up poetry readings, master classes and performances by the Pacifica Quartet, flutist Carol Wincenc and pianists Gilbert Kalish, Jeffrey Kahane and Inon Barnatan (through Aug. 11).
  • The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival (July 15- Aug. 20), now in its 40th season, welcomes music lovers to concerts around the city's ancient plaza. This year composer and pianist Magnus Lindberg plays his own chamber pieces and pianists Kiril Gerstein, Jon Kimura Parker and Inon Barnatan give solo recitals. Jeremy Denk joins Lynn Harrell and Benny Kim for a Schubert piano trio.
  • A few miles north of the plaza, a beautiful open air opera house rises from the high desert to host the Santa Fe Opera's annual summer season (through Aug. 25). This year the rarely heard King Roger by Karol Szymanowski shares the schedule with more familiar fare, such as Puccini's Tosca, Strauss' Arabella and Bizet's lovely Pearl Fishers. Thomas Hampson, Nicole Cabell and Sir Andrew Davis make appearances.
  • Head northeast of Santa Fe to find more chamber music at the Music from Angel Fire festival (Aug. 17- Sept. 2). Rain Shadow by composer-in-residence Steven Stucky receives its world premiere from festival artistic director Ida Kavafian and festival regulars: cellist Peter Wiley, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and violist Steven Tenenbom.
  • It's tough to find a more gorgeous setting for music than the Grand Teton Music Festival, nestled at the foothills of the Rockies in Jackson Hole, Wyo. And it's also hard to find a better-sounding festival orchestra. Top players from America's major symphony orchestras will be spending a few weeks (through Aug. 18) playing everything from Bach and Brahms to Rachmaninov (with guest pianist Stephen Hough) and Arvo Pärt.
  • If your tastes run less mountainous and more oceanside, consider Summerfest (July 31-Aug. 24) along the California coast in lovely La Jolla, in northern San Diego. This year composer Tan Dun brings his Water Passion to the festival. Artistic director Cho-Liang Lin welcomes guest artists Gabriel Kahane, the Calder and Tokyo Quartets, Jeremy Denk and the comedy duo Igudesman & Joo.
  • The Grand Canyon Music Festival (Aug. 24-Sept. 8) holds concerts at another photogenic venue, the Shrine of the Ages at the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The new music string quartet ETHEL is on hand this year, and there's a performance of Gabriel Kahane's Craigslistlieder with mezzo-soprano Cabiria Jacobsen and Kirk Dougherty.
  • Clarinetist David Shifrin leads the Portland, Ore. festival Chamber Music Northwest (through July 29), which features an appearance by the Emerson Quartet (July 15), a solo evening with genre-busting bassist Edgar Meyer (July 26) and Baroque concerti performed by recorder virtuoso Michala Petri (July 28, 29).

  • Set in the bucolic hills of Virginia's Rappahannock County, Lorin Maazel's Castelton Festival is in full swing (despite a recent calamitous storm), with opera, orchestra and chamber music performances including Sondheim's A Little Night Music (July 13-15) and a recital by violinist Jennifer Koh (July 21).
  • Conductor Gerard Schwarz presides over the Eastern Music Festival (through July 28) in Greensboro, N.C. There's jazz, blues and plenty of classical music, with Prokofiev specialist Alexander Toradze playing the composer's Third Piano Concerto (July 15). Conductor JoAnn Falletta and violinist Tasmin Little appear with the Festival Orchestra in a program with music by Adams and Korngold (July 21).
  • A two-hour drive straight west of Greensboro lands you in Boone, N.C. where you can soak up anything from Brahms to Bluegrass and the Appalachian Summer Festival, hosted by Appalachian State University (through July 28). The Broyhill Chamber Ensemble presents Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor (July 26).
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.