In February the second half of the classical music season really gets going, making whittling down our monthly concert picks to just ten choices rather difficult. Suffice it to say that there will be many other worthy concerts that will scroll by in our sidebar calendar throughout the month.
China's National Symphony Orchestra is making its first U.S. tour since 2006, with many stops all over the country. That includes, for some reason, two concerts in our area: in the Music Center at Strathmore (February 1, 8 pm) and the GMU Center for the Arts (February 2, 8 pm). The programs will be different, except for the Earth Requiem by Xia Guan, a composer who serves as the ensemble's director. North Bethesda will get Beethoven's seventh symphony and pianist Peng-Peng Gong as soloist in Chengzong Yin/Zhuang Liu's Yellow River Concerto, while Fairfax will hear Rachmaninoff's second symphony and violinist Yang Xu in the Sibelius violin concerto. Tickets: $60 to $22.
One week later, Sakari Oramo brings the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (February 19, 7:30 pm). The music is all Scandinavian, including Sibelius, Grieg, Alfven, Leifs, and Nielsen's fourth symphony ("Inextinguishable"). Danish soprano Inger Dam-Jensen is featured as soloist. Tickets: $64 to $10.
MORE NORDIC COOL:
The RSPO concert opens the Nordic music festival at the Kennedy Center, and there will be other Scandinavian tie-ins in other venues. Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu returns to the podium of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (February 7 at Strathmore; also February 8 and 9 in Baltimore). He will conduct Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini and Sibelius's second symphony, as well as Liszt's second piano concerto with Steven Hough as soloist. Tickets: $91 to $31.
Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is the next invitee of the Leading European Composers series at the Phillips Collection (February 21, 6:30 pm). She will preside over performances of some of her vocal and piano music by the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio. Tickets: $20.
Christoph Eschenbach leads a Scandinavian program for the National Symphony Orchestra (February 28 to March 2), featuring music by Kaija Saariaho (Orion), Sibelius (Symphony No. 7 and Night-Ride and Sunrise), and Magnus Lindberg's violin concerto with Pekka Kuusisto as soloist. Tickets: $10 to $85.
The Maryland Opera Studio continues its valuable New Works Reading series, with a performance of the late Lee Hoiby's opera Romeo and Juliet (February 15, 7:30 pm), from 2004. The singers are first-year students in the opera program at the University of Maryland, at the Clarice Smith Center in College Park. Tickets: FREE.
The contemporary music series at La Maison Française continues with a concert by Les Percussions Claviers de Lyon, an ensemble of keyboard percussionists. They will play music by Ana Lara, Ramon Lazkano, Oscar Bianchi, and Ligeti. Tickets: $25.
Charm City beckons again in February for the recital by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená and pianist Yefim Bronfman at Shriver Hall. They will perform an alluring program of songs by Musorgsky, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Bartók, and the world premiere of Marc-André Dalbavie's Three Melodies on a Poem of Ezra Pound. Tickets: $39.
The Phillips Collection is also hosting a most welcome recital by pianist Alexander Melnikov (February 24, 4 pm). The program is a daring combination of Schumann's Symphonic Etudes, Scriabin's B Minor Fantasy, and Prokofiev's sixth sonata. Tickets: $20.
Tossed into this basket of recommendations is a dance pick, the latest area appearance by the extraordinary Mark Morris Dance Company (February 8 and 9), at the GMU Center for the Arts. The company will perform a triple-bill of The Office (with music by Dvořák), Festival Dance (Hummel), and Socrates (Satie), all in their local premieres. As we have noted before, Morris insists on having live music for his dancers, which gets high marks in our book. Tickets: $46 to $23.
We do not get to review as much theater as we would like, because there are only seven days in the week, but we would not want to miss the production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler by the National Theater of Norway at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater (February 26 and 27). Peer Perez Øian's staging, debuted at the 2010 Ibsen Festival, will be performed in Norwegian with English supertitles. Tickets: $80 to $49.