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2.3.09

March Concert Planner

After a holiday break that lingers from December through February, all of Washington's classical music cylinders really get firing again this month. We start with my favorite, early music.

KEEPIN' IT HIP:
>> Members of Washington Bach Consort perform one of Bach's most powerful cantatas, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (BWV 12), in their monthly series of free noontime cantatas at the Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St. NW) tomorrow (March 3). Staying with Bach, the Washington Bach Consort performs Bach's Great Organ Mass later in the month at National Presbyterian Church (March 22), although we have to miss it to catch the Academy of Ancient Music performing all of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos the same afternoon at George Mason University Center for the Arts (March 22). Jessica Duchen may not care for Handel, but you will probably enjoy Handel's Brockes Passion as performed by Cantate Chamber Singers at St. John's Norwood Parish in Chevy Chase (March 20).

>> For a new twist on something old, try what should be a fine performance of Mozart's Requiem Mass, with Jun Märkl conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Strathmore, with vocal soloists including soprano Christine Brandes and mezzo-soprano Susan Platts. The work is paired, unusually, with Stravinsky's score for the ballet Apollo (March 5 to 8). In honor of its exhibit of Dutch cityscapes, the National Gallery of Art is presenting concerts of early Dutch music by the NGA Vocal Arts Ensemble (March 8), Harmonious Blacksmith (March 15), and the Egidius Kwartet (March 22). The Folger Consort's Mosaic program, with soprano Ann Monoyios, brings together medieval songs from Spain and Cyprus at the Folger Shakespeare Library (March 13 to 15). Smithsonian Chamber Music Society performs a program of Haydn's Trios for the Esterházys, including some featuring the baryton, at the Renwick Gallery (March 15).

FOUR BY FOUR:
>> If it's string quartets you want, put yourself down for the free concerts by the Belcea Quartet, shown at left (March 5), and Quatuor Ébène (March 13), who have received high marks from Jens, at the Library of Congress. Also, the Auryn Quartet will give the annual series of free concerts known as Schubert, Schubert, and Schubert, joined by pianist Menahem Pressler, at Georgetown (March 20 to 22). If you are willing to drive to Baltimore, the Brentano Quartet joins with Peter Serkin at Shriver Hall (March 8). Pro Musica Hebraica presents the Biava Quartet at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (March 19), the Corcoran Gallery of Art hosts the Ariel Quartet with violist Roger Tapping (March 22), and the Library of Congress presents the New Zealand String Quartet with Richard Nunns, playing traditional Maori instruments (March 27).

MAKE IT MODERN:
>> If it's contemporary music you want, you should know about the Mobtown Modern series at Baltimore's Contemporary Museum. Their next concert is a Sequenzathon, a performance of (nearly) all of Luciano Berio Sequenzas (March 3). Tickets are only $10 (students, $5). The Cathedral Choral Society will give a rare performance of Hindemith's When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd, a setting of Walt Whitman's poem in tribute to Abraham Lincoln, at Washington National Cathedral (March 8). The Leipzig String Quartet will play music by Takemitsu, Hosokawa, Tan Dun, and John Cage on a free concert at the Freer Gallery of Art (March 11).

>> The same evening, the Snark Ensemble will perform new scores by Catholic University composers as accompaniment to the screening of silent films at CUA's Ward Recital Hall (March 11). In conjunction with their exhibit of Robert Frank's photographs, the National Gallery of Art is presenting its 63rd American Music Festival in a series of free lunchtime concerts: pianist David Amram (March 4), pianist Peter Vinograde (March 11), Jessica Crash and the NGA String Quartet (March 18), and the New York Chamber Soloists (March 25). Finally, do not miss the Bang on a Can Marathon featuring composers Terry Riley and Glenn Kotche at Clarice Smith Center (March 29).

88 KEYS:
>> Till Fillner, shown at right, continues his complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas, begun at the National Gallery of Art in December, with the three sonatas of op. 2 and the Appassionata, op. 57, in a concert sponsored by the Embassy Series at the Embassy of Austria (March 4). Jonathan Biss joins the National Symphony Orchestra for a Mozart concerto (March 19 to 21). Lukáš Vondrácek, a 20-something Czech prodigy who will be taking part in the Van Cliburn Competition this spring, will be performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the same time, playing the first Chopin concerto (March 19 to 22).

>> Other pianists worth hearing include Olga Kern in a WPAS-sponsored solo recital at Strathmore (March 22); the contemporary music specialist Gilbert Kalish, in a concert with Philip Setzer, violinist of the Emerson Quartet, and pianist Paul Epstein at the National Museum of Natural History (March 22); Michael Sheppard with his Monument Piano Trio in the Mansion at Strathmore (March 23); Alexei Volodin playing the fourth Beethoven concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, sponsored by WPAS in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (March 28); and a solo recital by Richard Goode sponsored by WPAS at Strathmore (March 29); and Alan Mandel will play an all-American program in a free concert at the National Gallery of Art (March 29).

SING SWEET AND LOUD:
>> Both may be past their prime, but the joint recital by Frederica von Stade and Samuel Ramey, sponsored by WPAS in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, is a major event (March 25). A younger singer you will want to hear is soprano Susanna Phillips, who will be giving a recital with pianist Craig Terry sponsored by Vocal Arts Society in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (March 26). Washington National Opera's production of Peter Grimes, Britten's modern masterpiece, will feature performances by Patricia Racette, Christopher Ventris, and Alan Held (March 21 and April 4). Get out there to support the little opera company that could, Baltimore's Opera Vivente, in their English-language production of Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea, with the lovely soprano Ah Hong in the title role (March 6 to 14). Keep the Mendelssohn flame alive with the Catholic University School of Music performance of the composer's Elijah at St. Matthew's Cathedral (March 20 and 22).

MISCELLANY:
>> Playwright and actress Heather Raffo, shown at right (full disclosure -- Heather is a high school friend of mine), will perform with jazz trumpeter and Iraqi santoor player Amir El Saffar in a concert derived from Heather's Nine Parts of Desire at the Kennedy Center Family Theater, as part of the Arabesque Festival (March 6). Playwright and librettist David Henry Hwang will give a lecture at Clarice Smith Center (March 10). Cellist Steven Isserlis will give a recital with pianist Connie Shih at Clarice Smith Center (March 13). The Russian National Ballet Theater will perform Prokofiev's Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty at the George Mason University Center for the Arts (March 20 and 21). Lara St. John, the violinist known principally for having posed topless (well, partially covered by her violin) for an album cover, will be at the Barns at Wolf Trap (March 20). On a much more serious note, Vadim Repin will perform the Brahms violin concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted not by Yuri Temirkanov but by Yann Pascal Tortelier (March 26 to 29). Finally, James Ross will conduct the University of Maryland Symphony in a performance of Mahler's 5th symphony at the Clarice Smith Center (March 27).

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