In a summer noteworthy for its tribute to founding artistic director Lewis Kaplan, the Bowdoin International Music Festival pays homage to a titan of classical music: Beethoven.
Kaplan is stepping down after this summer’s festival. Through his 50-year tenure, Kaplan has established the festival as one of the most highly regarded classical musical festivals in the world. He has always programmed the finest composers in the history of music, and this summer is doing something he’s always wanted to do.
On six consecutive Monday nights beginning June 30, the festival presents the complete Beethoven String Quartet cycle at Brunswick High School’s Crooker Theater. Four groups will perform: the Brentano, Pacifica, Shanghai and Ying quartets.
Kaplan called the Beethoven String Quartet cycle “one of a handful of the greatest creations in the history of all Western art. The word that comes to mind is enrichment,” he said in an interview last week at his summer home in Brunswick. “To hear them at Bowdoin for the first time and to hear them performed by four great quartets is inspiring.”
The festival opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 9, at Bowdoin College in Brunswick and the Crooker Theater at Brunswick High School. It brings instructors, performers, soloists and classical music students from around the world to Maine for six weeks of chamber music study, collaboration and performance.
Musicians from the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago, Houston and Dallas symphonies, as well such conservatories as Juilliard, Eastman, Indiana, Peabody, Shanghai and London’s Royal College collaborate with students and present more than 100 concerts and events.
The most popular ticketed concerts are Wednesday and Friday nights, and that will be true again this year, said the festival’s development director, Kippy Rudy. The Monday night concerts present the best opportunity for people to buy tickets. In the past, the Monday night concerts have been in a campus recital hall with fewer than 300 seats. This summer, in anticipation of the popularity of the Beethoven cycle, the festival is moving the Monday night concerts to the 600-seat Crooker Theater.
“This represents something of a risk for us, but it’s nice to be able to tell people that tickets are available,” Rudy said. “We expect we will be selling out our Wednesday and Friday night concerts. That is almost guaranteed. So Monday is a great chance for people who want to hear some of the finest music in the history of classical music.”
The festival is reaching out to music camps and schools to encourage attendance, Rudy said. “We are letting them know that we will work with them to get as many young people in to see these shows. It’s a rare opportunity to hear these string quartets from these musicians.”
The Beethoven cycle begins Monday with the Ying Quartet performing Nos. 12 and 7. The Yings will return for Nos. 2, 4 and 15 on July 14.
On July 7, the Brentano Quartet performs Nos. 3, 11 and 14.
The Shanghai Quartet tackles Nos. 5 and 13 on July 21, and returns Aug. 4 for Nos. 1, 16 and 9.
The Pacifica Quartet rounds out the program on July 28 with Nos. 6, 10 and 8.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS of the Bowdoin International Music Festival:
– Wednesday Upbeat! – This series features traditional and modern works performed in an informal atmosphere. Works commissioned for the 2014 series will include “Matter and Light” by Kaija Saariaho, a piano trio featuring Jennifer Koh, violin; String Quartet No. 10 by Samuel Adler, performed by the Cassatt Quartet; a work for multiple percussionists by Vivian Fung; and a work for solo violin by Sebastian Currier. Classics by Bach, Brahms, Schubert, Strauss also will be presented.
The Wednesday Upbeat! concerts are at 7:30 p.m. July 2 to Aug. 6 at Studzinski Recital Hall; $40.
– Festival Fridays – These concerts feature resident and guest artists performing works by Bach, Brahms, Crumb, Debussy, Dvorák, Ravel, Mozart and others. The Friday evening series will include concerto performances by violinists Sarah Chang, Ilya Kaler, Suyoen Kim and Ray Chen with cellist David Requiro, and pianist Eric Zuber.
They begin at 7:30 p.m. July 4 through Aug. 8 at Crooker Theater; $40.
– Gamper Festival – The Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music presents works by 20th- and 21st-century composers at 7:30 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 2-3 at Studzinski Recital Hall, with a suggested donation of $10.
This summer’s program reprises works commissioned by the festival, including Luciano Berio’s “O, King”; George Crumb’s “Eleven Echoes of Autumn, 1965”; Mario Davidovsky’s “Junctures”; Elliott Schwartz’ “A Garden for RKB” and others. Several premieres will be presented as well.
– Artists of Tomorrow – This concert series presents solo and chamber music performances by festival students. Performances take place on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Studzinski Recital Hall. The series runs July 3 through Aug. 8, with a suggested donation of $10.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Mondays, June 30 to Aug. 4
WHERE: Crooker Theater, Brunswick High School
HOW MUCH: $40; tickets available by phone at 725-3895 or in person from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the festival box office, 12 Cleaveland St., Brunswick; and at the door.