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Hamptons Scene: Perlman, Paul Schenly Keep Beach in Tune

Paul Schenly giving instruction to Pianofest student Mathilde Handelsman in a recital at Avram Theater in Southampton. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

A friend is telling me she can do downward dog on her paddle board.

I tell her about the fantastic classical musicians I heard the other night in a packed concert hall in Southampton.

She gapes, just as I had.

We are at the Golden Pear in Bridgehampton, a long way from Lenox Coffee in Lenox, Massachusetts, where the porch fills with Tanglewood gossip.

In the Hamptons, there is just enough classical music for just enough people who want it, meaning there are old people here too, as well as music lovers who don’t want to put their city habits on hold. There’s also history: composer, conductor and pianist Lukas Foss, who studied conducting at Tanglewood and was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, had a home in the Hamptons for more than 20 years and spent time here for almost 50.

Tonight at 5:30 p.m. is the final 2013 Monday-night Pianofest in the Hamptons recital at the Avram Theater in Southampton.

The musicians are at the start of their careers, selected by audition to live and practice here for a month in a house filled with Steinways. The tradition marks its 25th anniversary this season.

In recitals, the musicians each play a piece, then Paul Schenly, Pianofest’s founder and director, gives feedback.

“Performers think of the melody, composers think most of the time of the bass. Could you try?” Schenly directed a musician at one recent installment, with more than 200 people in the audience.

Ear Training

The exercise trains the ear of the listener as much as the pianist.

On Schumann: “The danger in the second movement is that it becomes a series of pretty little phrases, whereas it’s one very, very long line,” Schenly advised. “Let’s play both hands.”

The music on the program is not announced in advance and tickets are $20. Candy and conversation with the musicians follow.

On Shelter Island, violinist Itzhak Perlman brings together teenage string musicians to study in a camp-like setting. Concerts are free on Fridays and Saturdays. A music-making workshop for families takes place at the Ross School in East Hampton on Sunday, Aug. 11.

Wanting Music

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival has 11 concerts this season, featuring about 40 musicians, through Aug. 18. Most are at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church and tickets start at $35.

“When we started this 30 years ago, everyone said are you crazy? The only thing anyone wants to do here is go to the beach and cocktail parties,” said Marya Martin, artistic director. “I was just adamant that there’s more to people than that, that people want music in their lives.”

The festival commissions work, including a piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, which will have its debut on Sunday, Aug. 11. It is called “Seven Seascapes for Flute, Horn, Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass and Piano.”

The festival paid to install air conditioning in the church where the musicians rehearse and perform. The town put up a crossing to help people navigate Route 27 on concert nights.

If New York’s cultural institutions have an official outpost, it’s the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall in East Hampton. St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble will perform there Sunday, Aug. 11 at 8 p.m. On the program: Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major and Beethoven’s Septet in E-flat Major. Tickets are $25- $75.

All these groups are relatively tiny compared to Yo Yo Ma and Joshua Bell’s stomping ground in the north. The budget for the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival is $650,000, Martin said. The budget for Tanglewood is about $25 million, a part of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s $84 million operating budget, said a BSO spokesman.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Greg Evans on TV, Patrick Cole on philanthropy.

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