New music takes center stage at Bowdoin International Music Festival

The Times Record

Leading off the second week of music at the Bowdoin International Music Festivial will be the Ying Quartet, heavy on Italian works.

The 7:30 p.m. show at Studzinski Recital Hall on Monday will open with one of Mendelssohn’s early quartets, Then the ensemble travels to Italy, first bringing to life one of Puccini’s rare chamber music gems: Better known for his contributions to the Italian stage, Puccini wrote the elegiac Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums) in response to the death of his friend, the Duke of Savoy. Then, Hugo Wolf, a composer famed for his song settings, creates an Italian melody for quartet in his exquisite Serenade. After the intermission, bassist Kurt Muroki joins the party for Dvorák’s String Quintet, dedicated “to my nation.”

Tickets for the concert are $45.

On Wednesday, the program features Mozart, Harbison and Ravel. Mozart took easily to violin sonatas, composing his first at the age of six and returning to the form throughout his life. Things were slightly different for Pulitzer Prize–winning composer John Harbison (on faculty this summer), who was in his seventies when he composed his first Sonata for Violin and Piano, which features ‘Sinfonia’ and ‘Aria’ among its five interwoven movements. After the intermission, Ravel taps into his own Basque roots in his incandescent Piano Trio.

The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. at Studzinski Recital Hall; tickets are $45.

On Thursday, at 11 a.m., composer John Harbison will give a lecture in Studzinski Rehearsal Room. Composer lectures are an opportunity to learn about and experience the creative process of a living composer. Harbison will discuss aspects of his music and inspirations and then accept questions from the audience.

Harbison is among America’s most distinguished artistic figures. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a MacArthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize, Harbison has composed music for most of America’s premiere musical institutions, including the New York Philharmonic, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His catalog includes three operas, six symphonies, twelve concerti, a ballet, six string quartets, numerous song cycles and chamber works, and a large body of sacred music.

Also Thursday is the start of the Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music presents the music of our time. Concerts will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, in Studzinski Recital Hall.

Over its history, the Gamper Festival has celebrated many of the most significant composers such as Milton Babbitt, Luciano Berio, William Bolcom, John Corigliano, George Crumb, and Ralph Shapey as well as new voices at the start of their careers. This year’s programs will feature new works by Samuel Adler, Andreia Pinto Correia, and many more.

“During this weekend the whole Festival shines,” said Derek Bermel, composer-inresidence at the Festival, in a prepared statement. “Performers and composers from the faculty and student body collaborate to present and illuminate the music of our time. Audiences are treated to cutting-edge works and premieres which could be the classics of tomorrow.”

The evening’s program at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Crooker Theater opens with one of Brahms’s proudest dispatches from the Austrian countryside where he enjoyed creative summertime retreats. Then, Harbison transports the audience from the New England sun to the oppressively dark expanse of a Wisconsin winter for Snow Country, featuring the oboe against an earthy backdrop of string textures. To conclude the concert with the Festival’s first orchestral performance of the season, Armenian-born and internationally renowned cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan is welcomed for his Festival début, playing Tchaikovsky’s concerto-like Rococo Variations.

Since winning the Cello First Prize and Gold Medal at the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011 at the age of 22, Narek Hakhnazaryan has performed with most major orchestras and in recital across the globe and has established himself internationally as one of the finest cellists of his generation. From 2014-2016 he joined the prestigious BBC New Generation Artists scheme during which time he made a hugely successful BBC Proms debut, with the Guardian commenting on his “technically impeccable and distinctively personal account” of Haydn’s First Concerto.

“The International Tchaikovsky Competition is one of the most prestigious classical competitions in the world,” said Festival Executive Director Daniel Nitschin a prepared statement. “To host a winner of this competition, in Midcoast Maine is an unprecedented for our community and students to experience one of the great performers of our time.”

Tickets for the concert are $45.

Tickets may be ordered at the Box Office at 181 Park Row in Brunswick, over the phone at (207) 373-1400, online, or purchased at the door the night of the concert.

For a complete schedule of Festival events, ticket information, live streaming, and to sign up for emailed program updates, visit

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