Beethoven summer

At the Bowdoin International Music Festival
By EMILY PARKHURST  |  June 18, 2008
OUTDOOR QUARTET: Bowdoin's festival.

Bowdoin International Music Festival | June 21-Aug 2 | Bowdoin College, Brunswick | 207.373.1400
Every summer Brunswick is host to some of the world’s finest classical musicians during the Bowdoin International Music Festival. The only music festival in Maine to be mentioned in the New York Times "Summer Stages" segment, this diverse and spectacular summer music fest can be appreciated by classical connoisseurs and novices alike.

“There is a wonderful balance here,” says Festival artistic director Lewis Kaplan. “There are students and faculty from (nearly) every continent as well as many from right here in Maine.”

Kaplan, who is a conductor, violinist, and professor at the Julliard School of Music in New York City, appears on many of the diverse programs throughout the six-week festival with either violin or baton in hand.

In addition to Kaplan, the faculty this year includes, among others, the Julliard String Quartet, Shanghai String Quartet, pianist Julian Martin, and Seoul Philharmonic concertmaster Dennis Kim. The highly regarded faculty draw talented student musicians to receive private lessons, chamber music and orchestral experiences, master classes, and varied performance opportunities.

“Generally we recruit in Boston, but this year I ran out of time and we didn’t recruit for students at all. However, we went from receiving 500 applications last year to 700 this year,” says Kaplan.

The musical community in Maine has responded with generosity and support. According to Kaplan, approximately 35 percent of the festival’s students are there on scholarship. Much of the scholarship money comes directly from donations made by members of the community.

In addition to community support, the Bowdoin International Music Festival received a National Endowment for the Arts grant of $10,000 this year, which is a testament to the festival’s success and wide-spread recognition.

The “theme” of this year’s festival is composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Every concert in the “Upbeat!” and “MusicFest” series contains at least one work by the composer and the Monday concert series has been aptly called “Beethoven Mondays,” as various faculty and guest artists will perform all of Beethoven’s 10 violin sonatas and five cello sonatas. The July 4 concert will include the famous Ninth Symphony performed by the Bowdoin Festival Orchestra, Rachmaninov Festival Chorus, and featured soprano Lisa Graf.

“The summer of 2009 is the bicentennial of Mendelssohn and 2010 is Schumann’s bicentennial, so we will obviously be focusing on them for the next two years. Since Beethoven’s music led up to and inspired Mendelssohn and Schumann, we felt it was appropriate to focus on him this year,” explains Kaplan.

Even the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music, which focuses on performing works by living composers, has several works inspired by Beethoven’s music. A work for classical guitar and violin by guitarist and composer Ricardo Iznaola, which is based on several Beethoven themes, will have its world-premiere performance during the series in late July.

As easy as it is to focus on the faculty and guest artist concerts, the student concerts should not be overlooked. Some of the most talented students in the world come to study at this festival and many of them give incredible concerts during their stay. These concerts are a bargain at a suggested donation of $10 and free for children. The “Artists of Tomorrow” series is a fantastic opportunity to seek inspiration and see what this next generation of classical musicians has to offer.

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Emily Parkhurst can be reached

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