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Washington's Season to Come, 2014-2015

Here in Washington, there is relatively little to hear in the sleepy month of August, and one's ears start to think ahead to the fall. This city offers a lot of high-quality music, more than most people can afford to hear. What are the performances that you should mark on your calendar now, the ones you do not want to miss? Here are my picks for the Top 25 events in classical music in the season to come. As always, it was a difficult mark to keep to, so watch for our Classical Music Agenda (with ten top picks for each month) throughout the year for many more worthy choices.

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D. Catán, Florencia en el Amazonas, Houston Grand Opera
Washington National Opera has an exciting lineup planned for next season, including Poulenc's devastating Dialogues of the Carmelites (albeit performed in English and in a production directed by Francesca Zambello), a revival of Wagner's Flying Dutchman, and Rossini's La Cenerentola (starring either Isabel Leonard and Tara Erraught in alternation). The one that makes our list is the opener, a revival of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas (September 20 to 28), starring soprano Christine Goerke.

Speaking of singers we look forward to hearing, do not miss the Romeo and Juliet of Kate Lindsey and Olga Peretyatkos in the Washington Concert Opera's performance of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi (September 28).

To modern and bel canto choices, add the late Baroque option of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour ou Les Dieux d'Égypte, an opéra-ballet from 1747, performed by Opera Lafayette in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (October 6). Best of all, the dances will be performed by the New York Baroque Dance Company, Kalanidhi Dance, and the Seán Curran Company, representing the Egyptians, Amazons, and Gods of the Nile.

For your early Baroque opera, Washington Performing Arts presents a concert performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo, featuring the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Monteverdi Choir in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (April 21), under the baton of John Eliot Gardiner.

Tenor Mark Padmore
Recitals by two British tenors round out the must-hear vocal events: Mark Padmore, who appears with pianist Jonathan Biss at the Clarice Smith (October 10), and Ian Bostridge, who will perform with pianist Julius Drake at the Library of Congress (February 7).

With some relief, I can say that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's season next year, for the first time in a while, is looking up. Among many programs I am putting on my calendar, the first one you do not want to miss is Mahler's fourth symphony with soprano Tamara Wilson as soloist, paired with Hilary Hahn playing Beethoven's violin concerto (September 18 to 21). (Also throw in Mahler's third symphony later in the season, featuring another fine soprano, Jamie Barton.) The second is with guest conductor Masaaki Suzuki, of the Bach Collegium Japan, leading Mozart's C Minor Mass, paired with Augustin Hadelich playing a Mozart violin concerto (March 12 to 14).

By some obscure law of physics, as the BSO rises in interest, the National Symphony Orchestra's season looks a little lackluster, although there are many concerts we want to hear (including the residency of Leonidas Kavakos, an appearance by Daniil Trifonov, and Paul Jacobs in the Poulenc organ concerto). Top on our list is the visit by conductor David Zinman, whose time with the BSO we remember so fondly and who has just stepped down from the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, leading Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra, plus Angela Hewitt as soloist in Mozart's 22nd piano concerto (October 9 to 11).

Among several exciting concerts by visiting orchestras, we most want to hear Riccardo Chailly lead the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, presented by Washington Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (November 5). The program combines Bruckner's seventh symphony and Mendelssohn's violin concerto, with Nikolaj Znaider as soloist. The same week will also feature a visit by the Academy of Ancient Music to the Music Center at Strathmore (November 8), with Richard Egarr leading performances of Bach's four orchestral suites.

Ionarts provided the only media coverage of the area debut of the outstanding young Dover String Quartet last year. The group returns this coming season, presented by the Fortas Chamber Music series in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (October 8). The program includes Glazunov's Five Novelettes, Mozart's Hoffmeister Quartet, and Schubert's Rosamunde Quartet.

Composer Aleksandra Vrebalov

Keeping in mind that the Atlas Center and the National Gallery of Art have not yet announced their seasons, the new piece we most want to hear is Serbian-born Aleksandra Vrebalov's Beyond Zero: 1914–1918, to be given its world premiere by the Kronos Quartet as part of its residency at the Clarice Smith Center in College Park (October 25). The score incorporates music by Bartók and Byzantine hymns, as well as live music, all to accompany a film by Bill Morrison, to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

As usual the lineup for the concert series at Shriver Hall in Baltimore is excellent. We definitely want to make the drive to Charm City for the recital by violinist Gidon Kremer and pianist Daniil Trifonov (January 18), as well as for the Jerusalem Quartet, another Ionarts favorite (February 15).

Violinist Isabelle Faust
Put us down, too, for the recital by violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov at the Phillips Collection (February 8), or so a little birdie tells us. We don't care much for the Kardashians here at Ionarts, but rely on us to be in the audience for a recital by violist Kim Kashkashian at the Library of Congress (March 13). Last but not least, the Folger Consort joins forces with the Gabrieli Consort for a program of music from Venice and London in the 17th century, presented at Strathmore (February 27), with Derek Jacobi and Richard Clifford reading excerpts from Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice.

Of the many extraordinary pianists visiting Washington this year, a handful make the cut for the Ionarts season preview, beginning with the eclectic Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Library of Congress (November 7). The partnership of the French Embassy and the Phillips Collection continues with the museum also hosting the next Washington appearance by French pianist and Ionarts favorite Alexandre Tharaud (January 25). For the first time since the conclusion of his Beethoven sonata cycle, Austrian pianist Till Fellner returns to Washington, presented by the Embassy Series at the Austrian Embassy (March 6), presumably with a Steinway brought in instead of that venue's Bösendorfer.

András Schiff brings his "Last Sonatas" project to Washington, presented by Washington Performing Arts at Strathmore, and actually featuring the second-to-last piano sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert (March 15). Prior to the recital, do not miss Schiff's talk about the project at the National Museum of Natural History (March 14), which promises to be just as diverting as the performance.

Any season that contains a recital by Evgeny Kissin makes us happy. Of the many things that have changed under the new leadership at Washington Performing Arts, it is a relief that the biennial concerts in Washington by the Russian master continue unchanged, this time with music by Chopin, Prokofiev, and Beethoven in the Music Center at Strathmore (April 22). Put a double-star next to that one.

In addition to the fine new series of concerts on the Rubinstein Family Organ of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, fans of the organ should not miss the chance to hear Olivier Latry, organist of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, perform at St. John's, Georgetown Parish (April 28). Paul Lewis's Schubert recital at the Library of Congress was one of the best concerts of last year, and the English pianist returns to the area to perform the last three sonatas of Beethoven, which he has recorded, in a concert presented by Washington Performing Arts in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (May 10).

Not numbered in the twenty-five choices are three dance performances, all with live music, that we plan on attending: the Mariinsky Ballet at the Kennedy Center Opera House, with Hodson's Nijinsky-inspired Le sacre du printemps and Fokine's Le Spectre de la Rose (January 27 to February 1); the Mark Morris Dance Group at George Mason University's Center for the Arts, with a choreography called Pacific, set to music by Lou Harrison (February 28 and March 1); and Great Britain's Royal Ballet at the Kennedy Center Opera House, with Carlos Acosta's new choreography to Ludwig Minkus's Don Quixote (June 9 to 14).

Some of my favorite films about the lives of great composers are those by the late Ken Russell, which are just outrageous and fun. You can watch three of them in screenings at the Library of Congress next month: Lisztomania from 1975, starring The Who's Roger Daltrey as the piano idol (September 5); The Music Lovers from 1970, starring Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky (September 12); Mahler from 1974, starring Robert Powell and Georgina Hale (September 19); and winding up with The Who's Tommy, also from 1975 (September 26), although I would have preferred the early television documentaries Elgar, The Debussy Film, Bartok, and Song of Summer, about the life of Frederick Delius, or Dance of the Seven Veils, the controversial film loosely based on the life of Richard Strauss -- none of which I have ever seen on a big screen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

we just heard Christine Goerke in Ariadne at Glimmerglass. Wonderful.
in a post performance audience chat, she said she had been "holding back" since it was a small house, a small orchestra, and she had to listen to and balance with the other artists.
Asked about the Wash Op's Florenzia, she said she would definitely not need to "hold back", and she described the opera as "puccini-esque".
She said she loved it (of course, she wouldn't be doing it otherwise)..
I'm betting that Francesa has already signed her up for Brunnhilde in the 2016 ring cycle..