Two Summer Festivals Arrive, Like Birds of a Feather

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We may be seeing the "Angry Birds" effect on summer music festival programming. On Wednesday, two of the New York region’s signature events -- the Mostly Mozart Festival and the Bard Music Festival -- announced their 2012 seasons that will feature themes built around birds and the animal kingdom.

The Mostly Mozart Festival, in its 46th year at Lincoln Center (July 28-Aug. 25), will present an exploration of the influence of birdsong and birds on classical music. There will be performances of Messiaen – including his ornithological pieces Oiseaux exotiques and Le merle noir – as well as John Cage's Telephone and Birds, from 1977, and a number of contemporary works.

There will also be bird walks in Central Park led by the New York City Audubon Society; The Murder of Crows, a multimedia installation by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, presented by the Park Avenue Armory; and a screening of the 2001 Academy Award-nominated documentary “Winged Migration.” Only absent from the announcement is Papageno's so-called "Bird catcher's Aria" from Mozart's The Magic Flute (the composer himself owned a starling as a pet, which reportedly sang along with his Piano Concerto in C Major).

Meanwhile, the Bard Music Festival, in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, will return for a 23rd season with "Saint-Saëns and His World" (August 10-12, 17-19). The festival continues its single-composer focus, with a dozen concerts, plus lectures, panels, and scholarly commentary. Among the standouts is a program that promises listeners “a radical reconsideration” of Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals. The beloved piece will be heard in its original chamber format featuring a glass harmonica. The program will also include comparable zoological pieces from Rameau, Rossini, Ibert, and Poulenc.

Will audiences come away with a greater understanding of the zoological sympathies of history’s composers? Time will tell. In the meantime, full details can be found on the Web sites of the Mostly Mozart Festival and Bard Music Festival.

What's your favorite bird-influenced piece? Leave your comments below: