Bridgehampton Chamber Music Celebrates Spring with the Work of Beethoven

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From left, Alan Alda, Marya Martin and Gilles Vonsattel at a 2017 concert of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church. Michael Lawrence photo.

Update: Due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the Saturday, March 21, Bridgehampton Chamber Music concert “A Mozart Portrait with Alan Alda” has been postponed. The upcoming concerts in the spring series on April 18 and May 16 are still scheduled to take place as planned, The organization is sharing updates with ticketholders directly and on its website, www.bcmf.org.

For Marya Martin, her relationship with Ludwig van Beethoven is nothing short of a borderline impossible, unrequited love affair — considering the prolific German composer and pianist rarely wrote for flute.

“So often, how you really feel someone’s music inside of you is you play it, and you just love it to death,” the New York-based, internationally acclaimed flutist explained. “There are only a few works that Beethoven has written in chamber music for flute — but I still love him.”

Their relationship technically began when Martin was a young pianist exploring his pioneering works — “however badly I must have sounded,” she recalled with a laugh — that, two centuries ago, shaped the identity of what classical music is today.

And for Bridgehampton Chamber Music, that is worth celebrating.

Come July, the 36th annual summer festival — comprised of over a dozen concerts through August — will pay homage to Beethoven, widely regarded as one of the greatest musical geniuses that have ever lived.

But first, a trio of spring concerts starting Saturday, March 21, will set the stage for the entire season, from inside the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church.

“This is a big Beethoven celebration year,” said Martin, artistic director and founder of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music. “It’s the 250th anniversary of his birth, so this next season for the festival, there will be a lot of not just Beethoven, but who Beethoven admired and loved, and who loved Beethoven.”

Kicking off the spring series on March 21, is a program of strictly Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — one of Beethoven’s heroes — featuring narration by actor Alan Alda that dives into the wunderkind’s life through his chamber music and letters, interweaving his own words with compositions for flute, piano and strings.

“Mozart was born 14 years before Beethoven, but he was someone Beethoven really admired,” Martin said. “The second concert, ‘Colorful Winds,’ is winds and piano, so there’s some great stuff in there, but the main centerpiece is the Beethoven Quintet for Piano and Winds.

“It was said that he wrote this piece because Mozart wrote a similar piece for the same combination of instruments in the same key, and then 15 years later, Beethoven writes a piece for the same instruments, also in the same key,” she continued. “It’s for five wind instruments — flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn — plus piano. When you have those five instruments combined with a piano, it really is a huge amount of sound. It almost sounds like a symphony orchestra.”

Following the second concert on April 18, the award-winning Verona Quartet — featuring violinists Jonathan Ong and Dorothy Ro, violist Abigail Rojansky, and cellist Jonathan Dormand — will make its Bridgehampton Chamber Music debut on May 16 with a blockbuster program of Beethoven and Dvorák.

“I just love the spring concerts because it’s more relaxed out there and there’s a feeling, an awakening of nature,” Martin said. “It really feels like a community event. We’re happy to be in the church again, we’re happy to be making music — and I think, this year, even more so because of this whole coronavirus and people in New York are getting pretty darn crazed by it. So I think that these concerts are going to be something to get everybody out of their own heads and get into the church to relax and listen to some great music.”

Fans and supporters of Long Island’s longest-running classical music series will notice its name has officially gotten slightly shorter — dropping the “festival” in Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival altogether to build an all-encompassing umbrella for the spring and summer concerts, the recording label, and everything else the organization has in store.

“When you think the festival was started with two concerts,” Martin said with a laugh. “And now we do 15 in the summer, three in the spring, we have 12 CDs out under our label now — we’re not just a festival anymore. We’re Bridgehampton Chamber Music. And that’s the feeling behind it. It’s setting us up for what we’re going to do in the future.”

The Bridgehampton Chamber Music spring concerts will kick off with “Mozart Portrait,” featuring narration by Alan Alda, on Saturday, March 21, at 5 p.m. at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church. The series continues with “Colorful Winds: Beethoven, Puccini, and More” on Saturday, April 18, at 5 p.m . and a concert by the Verona Quartet on Saturday, May 16, at 5 p.m. Tickets are $45 each or $110 for a three-concert subscription. For more information, call 212-741-9403 or visit bcmf.org.

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