Top Ten US Classical Festivals

Gerald R Ford Amphitheater

Gerald R Ford Amphitheater. credit Zach Mahone

If you fancy taking your concert-going to the mountains (or meadows, lakes and valleys for that matter) this summer we've picked the very finest of America's classical festivals – events that combine great programming, international artists and wonderful locations.

Aspen Music Festival

Best for: Small-town intimacy and big-picture landscape

DSC_2631 Aspen _446One of America’s finest classical music festivals, the Aspen Music Festival presents its yearly line-up of concerts and performances in an intimate, small-town setting. This year, the programme is curated around the theme of New Romantics, featuring guest artists including violinist Joshua Bell, the glorious Rufus Wainwright, and Robert McDuffie, who will take on Philip Glass's Violin Concerto No. 2. Concert-goers can also enjoy Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Lowell Liebermann's take on The Picture of Dorian Gray in the festival’s principal venue, a magnificent glass-fibre tent that seats over 2,000 and is supported by a roof of reflecting panels.

When: June 26 – August 17, 2014
Where: Aspen, Colorado
Tickets and info:

Bard Summerscape

Best for: Total musical immersion

Fisher Center 14 Bard _446Now in its 25th year, the Bard Music Festival celebrates one composer a year with an inspired seven-week programme of opera, music, theatre, dance and film set in a picturesque hamlet at the foot of the Catskill Mountains. 2014's guest of honor is 19th-century Austrian composer Franz Schubert, whose short but influential career will be celebrated with a programme of symphonic, chamber and sacred music including Carl Maria von Weber's seldom-performed gothic opera, Euryanthe, the world premiere of John Banville's Love in the Wars, and cabaret performances at the famous Spiegeltent. Those lucky enough to bag tickets to main stage performances will experience them inside Frank Gehry’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, a work of art in its own right.

When: June 27 – August 17, 2014
Where: Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Tickets and info:

Bravo! Vail

Best for: Orchestral encounters

Gerald R Ford Amphitheater _446The only North American classical music festival to join three internationally-celebrated orchestras together in a single programme, this year’s Bravo! Vail festival will play host to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, who will perform a lively mix of classical, jazz, pop and chamber music in the lush surroundings of Vail Valley, at the foot of Vail Mountain. Highlights from this year’s programme include Richard Strauss’s Don Juan and Pulitzer Prize-winner Christopher Rouse’s Oboe Concerto, as well pianist Hélène Grimaud’s performance of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto and Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s take on Beethoven’s Ninth.

When: June 27 – August 2, 2014
Where: Vail, Colorado
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Best for: Opera fans

Venetian Theater _446Set in the stunning surrounds of an idyllic country estate, opera aficionados from around the country flock to Caramoor every year for its exciting programme of established and young artists. This year, soprano Angela Meade will perform the title role in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, while guest artists Stephen Powell and Georgia Jarman will tackle Verdi’s Rigoletto. Other performances will include a solo recital by Caramoor cellist-in-residence (not to mention international cellist-du-jour) Alisa Weilerstein, and chamber music recitals of works by Arensky and Schubert by the Ariel Quartet and the Orchestra of St. Luke's.

When: June 21 – August 3, 2014
Where: Katonah, NY
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Best for: International star-power

Ozawa Hall (Steve _Rosenthal )-250Boston Symphony’s new music director, Andris Nelsons, has arranged an all-Dvořák programme for this year’s Tanglewood, the popular festival that draws around 350,000 visitors annually to the 210-acre estate in Boston. Soprano Renée Fleming has been slated to open the 2014 festival, which will also feature Bernstein’s Candide and Handel’s Teseo alongside various indoor and outdoor performances scattered around the estate’s carefully manicured lawns. A new chamber version of Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden and a performance of Brahms’s Third Symphony round out one of Tanglewood’s finest lineups.

When: June 27 – August 30, 2014
Where: Lenox, Massachusetts
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Best for: Musical retreat

2011-Ojai -Music -Festival -Libbey -Bowl -Evening -Shot -Australian -Chamber -Orchestra ---Tim -Norris -250California’s Ojai Valley is known for two things: an abundance of health and spiritual retreats that take inspiration from the surrounding mountain region, and the Ojai Music Festival, a four-day programme of music, concerts, opera and recitals selected by a different artistic director each year. Jeremy Denk is at the helm in 2014 with a world premiere of his own work, a chamber opera titled The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts), based on pianist Charles Rosen’s book of the same name. Other highlights of this year’s festival include performances by young pianist Timo Andres (teaming up with The Knights chamber orchestra for music by Andrew Norman), Brooklyn Rider, Uri Caine’s Sextet doing Gershwin, and Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins starring Pink Martini’s Storm Large.

When: June 12 – 15, 2014
Where: Ojai, California
Tickets and info:

Mostly Mozart

Best for: Anyone stuck in the city for the summer

Lincoln -center -front -view 250Inspired by the genius of Mozart, this annual celebration held in Manhattan’s magnificent Lincoln Center celebrates summer in the city with a tightly packed programme of concerts, dance, opera, late-night recitals and world premieres. This year, conductor Gianandrea Noseda leads the festival with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth alongside an opening night performance of Piano Concerto No.23 by pianist Richard Goode. Rounding out the programme will be the world premiere of John Luther Adams’s Sila: The Breath of the World in Hearst Plaza, a work composed specifically to be heard outdoors that will encourage both musicians and concert-goers to move around the performance freely.

When: July 25 – August 23, 2014
Where: New York, NY
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Best for: Lakeside opera and lush wilderness

Glimmerglass _446The annual Glimmerglass Festival present a series of four summer operas performed on rotation at the Alice Busch Opera Theater overlooking the sparkling waters of Otsego Lake, outside the village of Cooperstown in New York. This year’s programme will celebrate 100 years of music with new productions of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, Strauss’s Ariadne in Naxos and Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy. The festival will also welcome its 2014 artist-in-residence, soprano Christine Goerke, who will lend her expertise to the company’s apprentice programme for emerging artists. The season will also include the popular Getaway Weekends, packed with special concerts, talks and meals with artists.

When: July 11 – August 24, 2014
Where: Cooperstown, NY
Tickets and info:

Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

Best for: A New Mexican getaway

Sante -Fe -250Every year the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival in New Mexico invites artists to perform chamber music classics and new works beneath the blue skies and yellowing aspens of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This year’s six-week festival will feature pianist Yefim Bronfman as artist-in-residence, performances of works by Julian Anderson, Brett Dean and Lowell Liebermann, the Young Composers String Quartet, piano recitals including works by Chopin and Rachmaninoff, and an all-Beethoven programme featuring the composer’s final chamber works.

When: July 20 – August 25, 2014
Where: Santa Fe, New Mexico
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Best for: Outdoor adventures

2014_Gate _03_446Named after the ravines on the neighboring shoreline of Lake Michigan, Ravinia is the oldest outdoor music festival in the US, attracting some 600,000 annual visitors for a programme of 130 indoor and outdoor events and performances spanning classical, jazz and musical theatre, all set in the grounds of Ravinia Park. This year’s highlights include 47 debut performances by a variety of artists, from conductor Susanna Malkki to ZZ Top, and three musical incarnations of Romeo and Juliet, including a Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance of Tchaikovsky's Overture Fantasy, a suite from Prokofiev's ballet, and the score of West Side Story. James Conlon will also feature in the line-up, conducting Salome, starring Patricia Racette, to celebrate the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss.

When: June 5 – September 14, 2014
Where: Highland Park, Illinois
Tickets and info: