Ani Kavafin and Marya Martin.
By Ellen Frankman; Photography by Michael Nemeth
“When my husband and I founded this festival everyone said to us, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, no one will come,’” said Marya Martin, flutist and artistic director of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival.
But they were wrong. The festival is ushering in its 30th anniversary this summer. It features eleven concerts with more than 40 artists, a significant leap from the two performances and five musicians that started it all in 1984.
“For our 30th anniversary I’ve created a bunch of programs that are in a way some of my favorites from the past,” said Martin. “And I’ve invited some dear friends to come back and play this year.”
The BCMF kicks off on Wednesday, July 24 with a free outdoor concert titled “Buenos Aires to Bridgehampton” that will take place on the lawn of the Bridgehampton Historical Society. The concert will open with a piece by Astor Piazzolla, a renowned Argentine tango composer. Pablo Ziegler, Piazzolla’s regular pianist from 1978 to 1989, will travel from Buenos Aires to join the BCMF performance.
“We thought it would be wonderful way to open the season is to bring him back to do a program of Piazzolla,” said Martin. “Piazzolla is one of my favorites. I’ve done this concert before and I don’t like to repeat concerts too often, but this concert just has such wonderful spirit.”
A tent erected on the grounds of the historical society will accommodate up to 350 audience members, and the remainder of the lawn will remain open for additional guests. Martin encourages concert-goers to bring blankets, friends and family members, and even a bottle of wine to the season opener.
Another highlight of the festival will be the Wm. Brian Little Concert on Friday, Aug. 9 held outdoors at the Channing Sculpture Garden. The program, titled “Midnight in Paris,” will feature the French Gypsy-jazz of Stephane Wrembel, who was recruited by Woody Allen in 2012 to score the theme to Allen’s Academy Award winning film “Midnight in Paris.” The evening will also incorporate the works of other French masters including Debussy and Satie.
“He is phenomenal, and he doesn’t read music,” said Martin of Wrembel. “Last time he came in 2011 everyone was on their feet and Stephane was up playing five encores.”
Like Wremble and Ziegler, every year the festival attracts some of the most highly regarded musicians from around the country and around the world. For the 30th anniversary, Martin hand-selected each artist, and was even forced to turn away prominent musicians who had participated in the past and were hoping to return.
“Everyone wants to come,” said Martin. This season, the BCMF will also be joined by Peter Stumpf, the former principal cellist from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Choong-Jin Chang, the principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and pianist Pedja Muzijevic, who is returning to BCMF for his seventh year.
“We are in the enviable position now that we are very well established,” said Martin. “Musicians know the quality of the other musicians that attend. They know that we rehearse hard, so the performances are of a very high caliber, and they enjoy their time out here.”
Pedja Muzijevic will be traveling to Bridgehampton following successive performances in Ottawa, Toronto and Vail, but he enjoys his detour to the East End which he views as both a great artistic experience and a sort of respite from the chaos of a busy summer.
“I think of chamber music festivals as a core group of musicians, so they are each in a way a little sort of family who make music together,” said Muzijevic. “It is a great feeling of seeing people again year after year… we feel really part of something and there is a great feeling of camaraderie as we rehearse and share meals together.”
Muzijevic says that he also looks forward to performing in the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church. Built in 1842, the white steepled church that abuts Montauk Highway provides an intimate performance space that both the ensemble and the audience enjoy.
“The church is such a beautiful setting both physically and acoustically,” said Muzijevic. “It’s just about a perfect setting for chamber music.”
Reflecting on the past 30 years, Martin says she perhaps most enjoys that very closeness and familiarity that the BCMF has created, not only between its artists but between concertgoers as well. Before taking her seat to play flute in the ensemble, Martin takes the stage at the start of each evening to introduce the program. She has introduced nearly every concert for every year of BCMF since its 1984 founding.
“I look into the front row and there are people that have been there every single year, for 30 years,” said Martin. “I know their names, but I don’t know them personally, but I love the fact that there are these people that truly love the festival. I feel that I have a relationship with these people even though I don’t know them.”
For Martin, who always believed there was an audience for the arts on the East End, there is nothing more gratifying. By the end of this season, nearly every concert in the series will have sold out completely.
“The most important thing about music is that you connect with the audience,” said Martin. “If you don’t reach people, or pull their heartstrings, or give them goosebumps, or bring them to their feet, then you haven’t really done your job as a musician. I hope we do that. I think we do.”