The hills are alive with the sound of music festivals

Summer is a time for music to emigrate to the various hills and valleys of the land. Music festivals in general offer the traveler the ideal chance to visit new, perhaps unfamiliar places in the US and catch up with some very good performances at the same time.

There are too many wonderful music festivals around the country to itemize in any sort of detail. The random selection that follows is but the tip of the iceberg. The festivals last anywhere from a long weekend to an entire summer. The choice of music is vast, from chamber concerts in a barn to Wagner's "Ring Cycle" in a permanent Seattle theater.

East Coasters think of the obvious places, such as Tanglewood in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, which runs from July 2 to Aug. 26. But also in the same area, in nearby Pittsfield, is South Mountain Concerts (Aug. 1 -- Oct. 15). Chamber programs in a very impressive barn concert hall will feature the Beaux Arts Trio, the Manhattan String Quartet, and Jan de Gaetani.

If you are traveling out to Santa Fe for the opera this summer, in that spectacular opera house high on a bluff outside of the town, don't overlook the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, which runs from July 6 -- Aug. 11. It boasts a splendid roster of young chamber soloists, and the performances have always been reported as being on the very highest level.

Another delightful place to spend time in is Portsmouth, N.H., one of several historic towns on the New England coast that have undergone an amazing rehabilitation and restoration in recent time. And the Strawberry Banke Chamber Music Festival (July 5 -- Aug. 24) will be held in the town's new Theater-by-the-Sea.

You can then venture farther into New Hampshire, to the Lakes Region for the New Hampshire Music Festival (July 8 -- Aug. 14), with orchestra and chamber concerts, and an opera, Donizetti's "Don Pasquale." Gerard Schwarz is the music director of the White Mountains Festival in Bretton Woods (July 3 -- Aug. 30). The festival takes place at the Mt. Washington Hotel, a large, old-fashioned summer resort at the foot of its namesake mountain. The programs run the gamut from jazz to chamber orchestra. Master classes in instrument and voice are also part of the summer-long activities.

If it is locale you are seeking in your choice of what festivals to investigate this summer, few are as spectacular as the Aspen Music Festival, in Aspen, Colo. The surrounding mountains are breathtaking, the level of concertmaking extremely high, the town itself is quaint, and the list of performers -- such as Itzhak Perlman, James Galway, Schlomo Mintz, Mischa Dichter, etc. -- impressive. In all, it is one of the best-programmed mixes of chamber, recital, and full orchestra concerts, interspersed with student concerts and richly informative master classes.

Carmel is one of those delightful California coastal towns ideally suited in ambience to a small festival, and the Carmel Bach Festival (July 11-27) is justly famous, not only for level of performance, but for selection of repertoire. This year's most important works are the Bach B Minor Mass and Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro."

Then, of course, there are the summer homes of the major orchestras, such as Tanglewood, for the Boston Symphony; the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia and Saratoga, N.Y., for the Philadelphia Orchestra; Ravinia, Ill., for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Meadow Brook for the Detroit Symphony; Temple University Music Festival at Ambler for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; even the Hollywood Bowl for the Los Angeles Philharmonic!

A brand new festival on the East Coast gets off the ground on July 24 (through Aug. 10) on Cape Cod -- The Cape and Island Chamber Music Festival, under the artistic guidance of pianist Samuel Sanders, and cellist Robert Sylvester. Concerts will be in the First Congregational Church in Yarmouthport.

There are so many others -- Marlboro Music in Vermont (July 5 -- Aug. 12); Caramoor in Katonah, N.Y. (June 21 -- Aug. 17); Chamber Music Northwest in Portland, Ore. (June 30 -- Aug. 2); the Bar Harbor Festival in Maine (July 10 -- Aug. 17); in California both the Cabrillo Music Festival in Aptos (Aug. 17-31) and the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival in San Luis Obispo (July 28 -- Aug. 3).

Once again chamber music stays in the Big Apple this summer in the guise of the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York's Avery Fisher hall, Lincoln Center (July 14 -- Aug. 23). And once again, Wagner's complete "Ring Cycle" will be given in two complete cycles, one in German, one in English, at the Pacific Northwest Festival, Seattle July 20-25 and July 28 -- Aug. 2.

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