Brevard Festival Harmonizes Stars With Young Talent

Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops, works with young musicians at the Brevard Music Center.
Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, works with young musicians at the Brevard Music Center.
By Paul Hyde

BREVARD, N.C. — Connections mean a lot in the classical music world. Peripatetic Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart has leveraged his considerable classical clout to draw superstar soloists for the past eight years to the Brevard Music Center‘s summer festival, nestled in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Frequent visitors include violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and pianist André Watts.

Itzhak Perlman will open the Brevard Music Center's season this weekend.
Itzhak Perlman opens the Brevard Music Center’s season this weekend.

“If having a personal connection with some of these people helps, I’m glad it works out that way,” said Lockhart, who serves as Brevard’s artistic director while juggling principal conducting assignments with both the Boston Pops and BBC Concert Orchestra.

For Brevard’s 2014 season, running through Aug. 3 this summer, Lockhart was able to engage renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman. Lockhart and Perlman will open the 78th season together June 21 in a lighter program featuring popular works from film and TV, including John Williams‘ “Remembrance” (the soaring theme from Schindler’s List), and tunes from Casablanca, and Scent of a Woman.

“It’s a big coup for the music center,” Lockhart said, speaking on the phone from his home in Brookline, Mass. “We think we do great things every week at the center and bring amazing performers to the campus, but there are some performers who are so iconic in the world of music that any time they perform it’s a celebratory occasion.”

Other works on the program, featuring the Brevard Music Center Orchestra, include Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.

“As befits a celebratory occasion, it’s a program of great virtuoso showpieces for the orchestra,” Lockhart said. “The second half will allow Itzhak to take the stage and play some really beautiful music. It’s a great way to start the season. It’ll certainly set the bar very high.”

Brevard’s season features more than 80 performances, including 20 different orchestra programs, four opera productions, and many  chamber-music concerts.

Other notable soloists include pianists Garrick Ohlsson, Ingrid Fliter, Conrad Tao, and the 2013 Van Cliburn Gold medalist, Vadym Kholodenko. In addition to Lockhart, the festival features a number of conductors, including principal guest conductor JoAnn Falletta.

JoAnn Faletta is Brevard's principal guest conductor.
JoAnn Faletta is Brevard’s principal guest conductor.

Attended by about 30,000 patrons every year, the festival is both a concert series and an intensive training institute for talented young musicians from around the world.

This summer, the festival includes more than 400 students, selected from 2,200 applicants from nearly every state in the U.S., plus young people from Europe, Asia, and South America. Brevard students work with 65 professional musicians, representing major orchestras and distinguished music schools.

Concertmasters this season include William Preucil (concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra), David Kim (concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra), and Noah Bendix-Balgley (concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and soon-to-be first concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic).

Brevard's 180-acre wooded campus is home to the festival.
The Brevard Music Center’s 180-acre wooded campus is home to the festival.

Students and professional musicians join together for Brevard’s big concerts, such as the opening program. The summer repertoire includes challenging core works by Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Dvořák, Mahler, and others. Students, faculty, and staff all reside on the 180-acre, wooded Brevard Music Center campus.

Brevard’s operas this year include Britten’s Albert Herring, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.

Among the other notable programs this season:

*  June 27: Pianist Ingrid Fliter performs Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5. Also on the program: Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. (Matthias Bamert conducts.)

Ingrid Fliter will play Beethoven's 'Emperor' Concerto.
Ingrid Fliter will play Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto.

*  July 5: Violinist Adele Anthony is featured in Dvořák’s Violin Concerto. Also programmed: Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7. (Danail Rachev conducts.)

*  July 11: Pianist Garrick Ohlsson performs Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2. Also on the program: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. (Lockhart conducts.)

*  July 18: Pianist Vaydm Kholodenko plays Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Also planned: Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 (Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts.)

*  July 25: Lockhart conducts Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41.

*  Aug. 3: Pianist Conrad Tao performs Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Also on the program: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. (JoAnn Falletta conducts.)

Brevard also will feature 12 chamber music programs, including concerts by the International Contemporary Ensemble and the Shanghai Quartet.

Top classical performers are attracted to the Brevard campus for its scenic beauty and a strong tradition of musical excellence, Lockhart said.

Lockhart gives instructions during a Brevard rehearsal.
Lockhart gives instructions during a Brevard rehearsal.

Professional musicians also enjoy the opportunity to work with the next generation of orchestral performers.

“In some ways, it’s the most satisfying work I do,” Lockhart said. “To be able to take these kids to a higher level is one of the most satisfying things you can do as a performer. It’s frankly a lot more fun sometimes than just cranking out another concert with an established professional ensemble. I think a lot of my colleagues on the faculty will agree with me.”

Brevard also will feature popular performers such as Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey of the legendary folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary on June 24. Mary Chapin Carpenter comes to Brevard for a July 22 concert.

“We do this with the idea of broadening our audience base,” Lockhart said. “We want people to know that the center is for everybody.”

For a complete listing of festival events or for tickets, call 828-862-2105 or 1-888-384-8682 or visit the website

Paul Hyde is the Arts Writer for the Greenville (S.C.) News, the Southeast Editor of Classical Voice North America, and a Contributing Editor to Follow Paul Hyde on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.