Music al fresco

It's getting to be summertime - a time for hiking, camping, water skiing, and outdoor concertgoing. Music al frescom is the most romantic of all concert forms. Most of our famous orchestras move to some summer home for July and August. And whereas I have no intention of waxing comprehensive, I thought an overview of who goes where and why might give the summer roamer a goal - be it to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, Central Park in Manhattan, Ravinia outside of Chicago, or the Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl.

I offer a list in order only of opening-night concerts. Whenever possible, I also include some highlights of the programming for the upcoming season, which in most cases will include much Brahms to honor the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth. For more detailed information, it is best to contact the orchestras directly.

The Cincinnati May Festival gets the summer music season off to an early start - May 20, 21, 27, and 28. James Conlon is the music director. Robert Shaw will conduct Bach's St. John Passion. Maestro Conlon will offer an all-Brahms program, Mahler's Second Symphony, and Beethoven's Ninth. But that is not the whole picture for the Cincinnati Symphony. It offers, in June and August, an all-pops community-parks series under the baton of conductor Erich Kunzel Jr.

Next year, at Old Coney, the orchestra will have an in-town summer home that will seat 5,500, with some 9,000 capacity on the surrounding lawn. Then the season will run from June through August. Michael Graves is the architect on the project, for which groundbreaking is expected this May. Christopher Jaffee will devise one of his remarkable electronic-acoustical environments to make the sound outside every bit as good as the sound inside.

The Ravinia Festival actually begins May 31 with the Acting Company's production of Marc Blitzstein's ''The Cradle Will Rock.'' Then the Chicago Symphony arrives for eight weeks of concerts under the overall direction of James Levine, the festival's music director. He opens the orchestral season June 24 with the Verdi Requiem, with soloists Leona Mitchell, Florence Quivar, Ermanno Mauro, and John Cheek. Maxim Shostakovich will conduct his father's Violin Concerto and the Tenth Symphony. James Conlon, Eduardo Mata, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edo de Waart, and Jesus Lopez-Cobos are among the conductors. Erich Kunzel will lead four symphonic pops concerts, including a Bernstein Celebration. The San Francisco Ballet and the Hubbard Dance Company will also perform at the festival.

The Blossom Festival (held in Cuyahoga Falls, between Akron and Cleveland) is the summer weekend series of the Cleveland Orchestra. The pavilion sits in the bottom of a verdant bowl and seats some 5,800. The lawn, which sweeps up behind and around the pavilion, can accommodate some 12,500 outdoors lovers, giving the entire setting a unique flavor. The season gets under way on June 14 with Cleveland Orchestra pops concerts (through July 3), followed by the festival concerts beginning July 8. This year's roster of conductors includes Eduardo Mata, Christoph Eschenbach, music director Christoph von Dohnanyi, and Sir Colin Davis. The music ranges from the de rigueur Brahms (Sir Colin leads the ''German Requiem''), to the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Mstislav Rostropovich in a rare solo appearance. The last concert of the season is August 28.

The San Francisco Symphony breaks the rules - it stays home for its summer activities! This year, Kurt Masur leads the orchestra through all nine Beethoven symphonies in five concerts beginning June 15. (The Juilliard Quartet plays all 16 Beethoven quartets in five concerts around the same time.) Then, in association with the San Francisco Arts Commission, the orchestra launches into a pops festival, which will include Nelson Riddle, music director Edo de Waart, and John Dankworth as conductors.

The Philadelphia Orchestra visits two places every summer. One is the Mann Music Center in the huge city park that dominates Philadelphia. From June 20 through early August the orchestra is under the direction of music director Riccardo Muti, director emeritus Eugene Ormandy, Stanislav Skrowaczewski, Zubin Mehta, Charles Dutoit, and Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos. The last-mentioned will conduct a concert version of ''Carmen'' in the facility that was modeled after the Filene Pavilion at Wolf Trap. It is a spacious, covered, open-sided structure with lawn space on the sides and behind. Concerts there are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.

Then, on August 10, the orchestra begins its annual stint at the Saratoga Festival just outside of Albany, N.Y., and less than two hours from Tanglewood. There, maestro Ormandy opens and closes the season. Dennis Russell Davies, Erich Leinsdorf, Robert Irving, Franz Allers, William Smith, and Robert Shaw shaaa honors. The Brahms cycle will be under Leinsdorf's baton.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra treks to Tanglewood. Nearly 10 years of BSO watching has left me with a strong bias about the singular excellence of this ensemble. Besides, the Tanglewood estate in Lenox - with its view to the lake in the bottom of the Stockbridge Bowl - is one of the beautiful spots in rural America. The lawn is ample for those who like to sit down, picnic, and enjoy the concert piped out to the stars.

The Tanglewood season gets under way June 30, with a weekend of the BSO Chamber Players; then from July 8, the full BSO begins its season. Among the noted conductors, besides music director Seiji Ozawa, will be Leonard Bernstein, Charles Dutoit, Andre Previn, and Edo de Waart. Among the more imposing concerts will be a full-concert version of Gluck's ''Orfeo ed Euridice'' with Marilyn Horne, Benita Valente, and Erie Mills (Aug. 6) and Mahler's Third Symphony (Aug. 28) - both with Mr. Ozawa. In the course of the season, most of the major Brahms works will be heard. Thursday night a smaller concert - chamber and solo recitals - takes place in the Concert Theater on the other side of the estate.

The Utah Symphony ventures to a most distinctive summer locale - Snowbird, the state's popular ski resort-turned-summer-recreation-haven in the warmer weather. The orchestra's five programs are light classical in nature and begin July 2 with Charles Ketcham, the orchestra's associate conductor, and soloist Dinah Shore. Other concerts include the annual performance of the ''1812 Overture'' complete with the Mountainmen of the Wasatch - who supply the military effects (Aug. 13). Mr. Ketcham leads a concert version of Gershwin's ''Porgy and Bess'' (July 9). Utah composer Crawford Gates leads his concert version of his ''Promised Valley'' - based on the founding of the original Salt Lake Valley settlement (July 29).

The Buffalo Philharmonic - like New York's western-most city, from which it takes its name - has seen hard times. But this summer a waterfront performing-arts pavilion (as yet officially unnamed) in LaSalle Park will open July 2 with a gala Sousa concert under the direction of Sousa specialist Keith Brion. Wednesday evenings in the park are free, and Saturday evenings cost a nominal amount of money. Music director Julius Rudel is on hand, as is associate conductor Semyon Bychkov. Then, in mid-July, the orchestra moves to ArtPark, an increasingly prestigious summer arts complex in Western New York, where Christopher Keene will conduct most of the concerts. Highlights there include, on July 17, a 12-hour Bach festival and, on July 27 and 31, concert performances of Verdi's ''Rigoletto.''

The Los Angeles Philharmonic moves out of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a summer of concerts in the Hollywood Bowl that runs the gamut from serious to pops. Los Angelenos hardly seem to mind that smog dulls the stars and airplanes blanket the sound. The talent lineup boasts such names as Leonard Bernstein, John Williams (one of his two programs features selections from his film music, including ''Return of the Jedi''), Herbert Blomstedt, and Edo de Waart. The rising Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli conducts the Verdi Requiem with soloists Rosalind Plowright, Julia Hamari, Neil Shicoff, and Robert Lloyd. Michael Tilson Thomas gets the season under way July 12 with a gala concert, boasting Andre Watts as soloist, and later he offers a tribute to Leopold Stokowski. The Los Angeles Philharmonic plays 44 concerts through mid-September, and there are, as well, jazz nights, virtuoso nights, dance nights, and a variety of other offerings throughout the season.

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