Fiona Sturges previews the best of the summer's classical gatherings
Bath International Music


15-31 May

This Georgian spa resort has increasingly contemporary preoccupations after last year's first Contemporary Music Weekend - a celebration of the music of Iannis Xenakis. The event is already well on its way, but yet to come are three exponents of the contemporary quartet, the Kronos, Arditti and Duke string quartets. And there is more opera than usual as the Kent Opera offers Monteverdi's Orfeo and Opera for Europe presents Mozart's Lucio Silla.

Information and bookings: 01225 463362

Chard Festival of Women in Music

20-25 May

This much-acclaimed celebration of women's contribution to music traverses a multitude of genres. The programme for this fifth festival features performers from as far afield as Georgia, South Africa, Jamaica and Venezuela as well as an array of local musicians. Highlights include The Fifth Element's homage to Hildegard von Bingen, and Kate Ryder and David Appleton's extravagant compositions based on a century of female composers.

Information and bookings: 01460 66115

Glyndebourne Festival Opera

21 May-28 August

Glyndebourne, Lewes, E Sussex

Picnics, Pimms and posh frocks shape this prestigious annual event, not forgetting the classiest productions of the season. This year's event offers Graham Vick's production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte with the London Philharmonic conducted by Andrew Davies, Nikolaus Lehnhoff's interpretation of Janacek's Kata Kabanova and Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, directed by Peter Hall, to name but a few.

Information: 01273 815000

Bookings: 01273 813813


Salisbury Festival

23 May-13 June

Not solely a classical festival, but with an excellent classical programme anyway. This year's event sees the world premiere of the opera, Angel Magick, the result of a collaboration between saxophonist and composer John Harle and the director and librettist David Pountney, following their discovery of a mutual interest in the 16th-century alchemist Dr John Dee. Also featuring Paul McCartney's classical venture Standing Stone and a collaboration between percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the famed a cappella group The King's Singers.

Information: 01722 323888

Bookings: 01722 320333

BOC Covent Garden Festival

23 May-6 June

Boasting an exhausting 100 performances over 15 days, this prestigious festival features the young Scottish composer and staunch defender of new music Alisdair Nicholson, with specially commissioned works, Mrs O's Saturday Nights and the Mini Opera. Nicholson has already written for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as well as musical scores for a host of experimental theatre companies. The programme sees the return of the jocose Music Theatre London with a particularly irreverent production of Johann Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus. The BBC Concert Orchestra and Singers will also be celebrating the musical genius of Leonard Bernstein and Cole Porter, with a star-stuffed, though unlikely cast of soloists including Dennis Quilley, Nickolas Grace and Imelda Staunton.

Information: 0171 4057555

Bookings: 0171 4200171


The English Haydn Festival, Bridgnorth

29 May-7 June

St Leonard's Church, Bridgnorth in Shropshire provides a costume drama setting for this eight-day Haydn extravaganza, featuring the English Haydn Orchestra, as well as chamber music concerts from the Revolutionary Drawing Room. Soprano Catherine Bott, an eminent interpreter of early vocal music, returns to sing in The Creation and the rarely heard Lines on the Battle of the Nile.

Information and bookings (subject to booking fee) 01952 810428 or 812922

Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music

1-29 June, London

As well as being significant of Lufthansa German Airlines' expanding empire, this is probably one of the most comprehensive of the summer's early music events. This year it moves to a new venue - St John's Church, Smith Square - and showcases the Golden Age of French music, along with pieces by European composers including Bach, Handel and Purcell. The choir and orchestra of The English Concert, directed by Trevor Pinnock, open with a rare performance of Rameau's one-act opera-ballet Pygmalion and there are also two performances by the Festival's resident orchestra, the St James's Baroque Players with pieces by Handel and Purcell. In addition to the ten regular concerts this year the festival also incorporates two free BBC Invitation Concerts.

Information: 01728 452 935

Bookings: 01728 453 543


Spitalfields Festival

3-24 June

Christchurch, Spitalfields, London

Set amid the sumptuous intimacy of Hawksmoor's Christ Church and now under the tutelage of artistic director Judith Weir, this one-day affair favours a19th-century repertoire. This year includes a Chopin piano concerto by the Schubert Ensemble, the original chamber version of Faure's Requiem by the Winchester Cathedral Choir and the festival's first ever Wagner night, featuring Tristan und Isolde and Siegfried performed by the Endymion Ensemble.

Information and bookings 0171- 377 1362

Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts

10-28 June

Founded by Britten, this inimitable festival is a veritable holiday camp for the English music establishment, situated in a genteel resort on the Norfolk coast. It opens with a new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Jubilee Hall - where it was first premiered in 1960, while Steven Isserlis gives a Bach recital in the Blythburgh Church. This 51st year is the last for artistic directors Oliver Knussen and Steuart Bedford, both proteges of Britten. Simultaneously marking their departure and paying tribute to the late Sir Michael Tippett, Knussen will conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a concert that include Tippett's last major symphonic work The Rose Lake while Bedford conducts an all-Britten programme with the City of London Sinfonia.

Information: 01728 452935

Bookings: 01728 453543


Hampton Court Palace


11-20 June

Now in its sixth season, this event occupies the finest setting of all the summer's festivals, with Henry VIII's lavish love-nest as the backdrop. An assortment of star soloists make this a particularly glitzy event with Welsh opera luminary Bryn Terfel and American soprano Renee Fleming opening the proceedings. In the days to follow, Jose Carreras will be making his only UK appearance of the season and The Artist Formerly Known As Nigel Kennedy will be premiering his orchestral arrangements for Klassik Kennedy, a selection of pieces with the English Chamber Orchestra. Elaine Paige and Flamenco maestro Paco Pena will also be putting in appearances.

Bookings: 0171-344 4444

City of London Festival

23 June-16 July

Stockbrokers make way for luvvies as hidden venues in the City open up for this mammoth event. This year's programme takes a fashionably multimedia stance as John Lill performs Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition complete with slide projections of the original paintings, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie "collaborates" with artist Norman Perryman as he creates a painting in response to her performance. There will also be a candlelit performance of Rachmaninov's Vespers from the St Petersburg Chamber Choir, and the event closes with a special adaptation of The Tempest, presented as a Masque, accompanied by the music of Purcell.

Information: 0171 377 0540

Bookings: 0171 638 8891 (subject to booking fee)

Almeida Opera

26 June-18 July

This event, dedicated to contemporary opera and music theatre, opens with a world premiere of Deirdre Gribbin and Sharman Macdonald's Hey Persephone!, (you can also see it at Aldeburgh) and the British premiere of Guo Wenjing's Wolf Cub Village. The festival also sees the debut of the extraordinary Stephen Scott Ensemble, six musicians who perform on the strings of a grand piano.

Bookings: 0171 359 4404

Cheltenham International Festival of Music

4-19 July

Having moved on from its beginnings as a platform for new British music, this two-week jamboree has now evolved into a showcase for national and international performers, encompassing old and new sounds. It is now under the direction of BBC broadcaster Michael Berkeley, who, this year, is hijacking the festivities for his 50th birthday, with composer-in-residence George Benjamin. It includes major British premieres for Carter, Ligeti and Berio as well as Alfred Brendel's airing of all five Beethoven piano concertos with the Sinfonia Varsovia. And from the more placid park of the Pittville Pump Room comes violinist Tasmin Little and the Lindsay Quartet.

Information and bookings: 01244 227979


York Early Music Festival

3-12 July

Matching the location with the music, this old walled city showcases a rich store of early music performers. Stevie Wishart's Sinfoyne performs instrumental music from Florence and the Academy of Ancient music presents works by Handel, Vivaldi, Geminiani and Corelli with soprano Emma Kirkby.

Information: 01904 658338

Bookings 01937 584 123 (subject to booking fee)

Llangollen International Eisteddfod

7 -12 July

Seen as a platform for up-and-coming overseas artists, this globally- respected and particularly warm-hearted vocal gathering (Eisteddfod means "sitting together") has seen more top drawer soloists than the ENO dressing room. Pavarotti and Placido Domingo both made their professional debuts here. Highlights include Kennedy, the John Wallace Brass Quintet, John Tomlinson and the impeccable Sally Burgess with the BBC National Opera and the Chorus of Wales.

Bookings: 01978 861501


Greenwich and Docklands

International Festival

10 July-19 July

An extraordinarily assortment of venues fashion this Thames-side extravaganza where deckchairs and shades are a must. Lesley Garrett performs an open- air concert showcasing a mixture of classical pieces and Broadway classics, accompanied by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Also featuring, the Celtic early music choral group Anna with composer Michael McGlynn who were first famous over here as the original vocalists for that dubious Celtic spectacle, Riverdance.

Information and bookings: 0181- 853 4444

Buxton Festival

16-26 July

Buxton Opera House

This modest opera house in the middle of Derbyshire offers an extensive programme of concerts, walks, talks and jazz. Highlights include the Northern Chamber Orchestra's rendition of Mozart's La finta semplice and Clonter Opera's chamber version of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.

Information: 01298 70395

Bookings: 01298 72190


BBC Proms

17 July-12 Sept

Now in its 104th season, this extended celebration of classical music sees music by Lennon and McCartney, 30 world, European and UK premieres and a special Proms Choral Day, celebrating the cream of British choral singing. Special themes link this year's programmes - magic and mystery, power and politics, adventures and anniversaries - and the popular Junior Prom will be lengthened to two concerts, one for families and one for schools.

Information: 0171 765 5575

Bookings: 0171 589 8212

Edinburgh International


16 Aug-5 Sept

If you can find them amid the general chaos that is the Edinburgh Festival, there are over 170 shows to chose from - all at half the price of London performances - ranging from the UK premiere of Balanchine's ballet A Midsummer Night's Dream to concerts of Scottish harp music. There are twelve concerts encapsulating the complete songs of Hugo Wolf, four Verdi operas based on Schiller texts alongside readings of the plays while a whole weekend is dedicated to Pierre Boulez with performers including Katarina Karneus, Ian Bostridge, Barbara Bonney and Amanda Roocroft.

Information and bookings: 0131 473 2000


Pianoworks '98

3-6 Sept

Blackheath Concert Halls

The festival director, pianist Stephen Coombes, has gathered a gaggle of leading international performers including Leslie Howard, Stephen Hough, Artur Pizarro and Kathryn Stott. This could be the one to take your kids to as there will be a special children's programme as well as a "pianobash', featuring six pianists performing a disorderly programme of Liszt, Milhaud and Godowsky.

Bookings and Information: 0181- 463 0100 (subject to booking fee)