Road trip: Classical music festivals throughout the east

| Saturday, June 7, 2014, 6:12 p.m.

The notes in a piece of music don't change from season to season; yet, there are special delights only to be found at summer music festivals. Some is because of the enchantment of outdoor settings and a more casual listening environment. But the festival atmosphere of special presentations adds excitement for performers and audiences alike.

Although most summer music festivals are outdoors, the quality of sound is usually quite good in the pavilions or sheds that have covered seating near the orchestra. Tanglewood is not the nation's oldest summer classical music festival but it is the most prestigious. The summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra attracts more than 350,000 people each year with diverse and artistically ambitious programming performed by top conductors and soloists.

While Tanglewood does present jazz and popular performers, other festivals, especially Wolf Trap, have a larger proportion of programming devoted to nonclassical events. Some festivals, including Chamberfest Cleveland and Glimmerglass Opera's event, are oriented to particular genres which are also present in the mix at other festivals.

Blossom Music Festival (June 2 to Sept. 20)

Founded in 1968, the Blossom Music Festival in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, is the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra and the nearest major festival to Pittsburgh. The pavilion has excellent acoustics and seats more than 5,000. The lawn is gently tilted toward the pavilion and has room for more than 13,000 concertgoers. The festival this summer adds a three-concert series at Severance Hall in August.

Highlights at Blossom include the joint debut of Dallas Symphony music director Jaap van Zweden and violinist Renaud Capucon, July 5; conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski leading a program concluding with Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, July 20; and a European tour send-off concert led by music director Franz Welser-Most, Aug. 31.

Other notable concerts include Jack Everly leading a Sci-Fi Spectacular, July 13, and Broadway Standing Ovations, July 27, and the Classical Mystery Tour performing with the orchestra in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first U.S. tour, Aug. 24.

Details: 330-920-8040 or

Chamberfest Cleveland (June 19 to 29)

Quickly establishing itself as a premiere summer-music destination, Chamberfest Cleveland was founded four years ago by Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinet Franklin Cohen. Its fascinating lineup of concerts demonstrates the advantages of a musician-run organization, one in which musical ideas rather than marketing drives the programming. The festival, which takes place in Cleveland, attracts a very high caliber of performer, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster, Noah Bendix-Balgley.

The 10 concerts in 11 days begin with Celebrate Three! which includes Kevin Puts' “And Legions Will Rise,” Bohuslav Martinu's Three Madrigals for oboe, clarinet and bassoon, along with music by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Gabriel Faure, June 19; “The Harmony of Numbers,” which pairs Iannis Xenakis' “Kottos” for solo cello with Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, June 21; and “Ghost Opera” by Tan Dun with the world premiere of choreography by Groundworks Dance Theatre and Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2, June 28.

Details: 216-785-9977 or

Wolf Trap Foundationfor the Performing Arts (June 6 to Sept. 13)

As is befitting for the national park for the performing arts, Wolf Trap in Vienna, Va., presents an inclusive range of programming, including pop, country, folk, blues, opera, classical concerts and dance. Wolf Trap is a private-public partnership between the National Park Service, which maintains the grounds and buildings, and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, which runs the performances.

Operatic performances include Georges Bizet's “Carmen,” July 25; George Frideric Handel's “Giulio Cesare,” June 27 and 29, and July 1; and a double bill of Darius Milhaud's “Le pauvre matelot” with Francis Poulenc's “Les mamelles de Tiresias,” Aug. 8, 10 and 16.

Classical concerts by the National Symphony include Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, June 28, and Yo-Yo Ma playing Antonin Dvorak's Cello Concerto, Aug. 2.

Details: 877-965-3872 or

Castleton Festival (June 28 to July 20)

Located on Lorin Maazel's 500-acre estate in northern Virginia, the Castleton Festival was founded in 2009 by the Pittsburgh Symphony's former music director to nurture young artists in operatic and instrumental performance. In addition to Maazel's high performance standards, the festival makes smart connections beyond the performance stage.

The first day includes a Japanese and French cooking class, chamber music recital and staged performance of Giacomo Puccini's “Madama Butterfly,” June 28. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will give a talk on Law in Opera, the morning of June 29, with a Mozart symphonic concert in the evening. The evening performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's “Don Giovanni,” July 12, will be preceded in the afternoon by “Don Juan in Hell” by George Bernard Shaw.

Details: 866-974-0767 or

The Glimmerglass Festival (July 7 to Aug. 25)

The nearest summer mecca for opera lovers and professionals in the United States is in Cooperstown, N.Y. Glimmerglass Opera was founded in 1975 and is expanding under the leadership of general and artistic director Francesca Zambello.

Programming for 2014 focuses on music of the past 100 years, with productions of Puccini's “Madame Butterfly,” 13 performances between July 11 and Aug. 23; Richard Rodgers' “Carousel,” 12 performances between July 12 and Aug. 22; Richard Strauss' “Ariadne auf Naxos,” eight performances between July 19 and Aug. 23; and Tobias Picker's “An American Tragedy,” nine performances between July 20 and Aug. 24.

Master classes will be offered by two legendary artists: soprano Jessye Norman, Aug. 8, and movie, theater and opera director Jonathan Miller, July 25.

Details: 607-547-2255 or

Tanglewood Music Festival (June 28 to Aug. 30)

New Boston Symphony music director Andris Nelsons will lead four programs in his first summer at Tanglewood, including an all-Dvorak program with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, July 11; a dance-inspired program, July 12; Edouard Lalo's “Symphonie espagnole” with Joshua Bell and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, July 20.

Soprano Renee Fleming is the star of the opening night gala, July 5. Other major events include Christoph von Dohanhyi leading Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”), July 26, and Charles Dutoit conducting Beethoven's Choral Fantasy with pianist Emanuel Ax and Ninth Symphony, Aug. 24.

Other notable concerts at the Lenox, Mass., facility include James Taylor, July 3 and 4; a concert performance of Leonard Bernstein's “Candide,” Aug. 16; and Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops performing the orchestral parts with the film “The Wizard of Oz,” Aug. 22.

Details: 888-266-1200 or

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

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