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Highlights of the Concert Season, Fall 2005

Borodin String QuartetCHAMBER MUSIC:
One of Jens's favorites, the Takács Quartet, in its first season with new violist Geraldine Walther, will be coming to our area this fall. First, they will perform a program of Mozart, Chopin, and Brahms with pianist Garrick Ohlsson, at Shriver Hall, on the campus of Johns Hopkins University up in Baltimore on October 2. If you don't hear enough then or can't make it to Baltimore, they will perform quartets by Haydn, Borodin, and Beethoven, as part of the free concert series at the National Gallery of Art on October 23.

The Borodin Quartet will play a concert of Borodin and Beethoven on the excellent free series at the Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium, on October 19. This is part of their 60th Anniversary Tour. How about chamber music with big-name soloists? On October 23, violinist Midori will play a recital with pianist Charles Abramovic. Washington Performing Arts Society hosts this concert at the Music Center at Strathmore. WPAS also brings us violinist Hilary Hahn, in a recital on November 13, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, as well as pianist Mitsuko Uchida in recital on November 15, back at Strathmore. We also look forward to the chance to hear Messiaen's exalted and transforming Quartet for the End of Time on November 3, given by the Jerusalem Trio with clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, at the Library of Congress.

Also worth noting: a performance of the chamber music of Tōru Takemitsu, on October 8, at the Library of Congress; the Beaux Arts Trio at the National Gallery of Art on October 9; the Orion String Quartet with pianist Peter Serkin at the Kennedy Center on October 12; the Pacifica String Quartet at the National Gallery of Art, East Building Auditorium, on December 11; the Jupiter String Quartet at the Library of Congress on December 16; and the Emerson String Quartet with Colin Carr, at the National Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium on December 17.

As for other soloists we will try to hear, how about world-famous, trend-setting, world-altering sitarist Ravi Shankar, whom WPAS is bringing to Strathmore on October 16? Other notable appearances: the winner of this year's Van Cliburn Competition, pianist Alexander Kobrin will give a recital on November 12, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Peabody Conservatory graduate Awadagin Pratt will give a recital on November 27 at the National Gallery of Art. In this category, we might also include puckish music historian Peter Schickele who, improbably, has been making classical music side-splittingly funny for decades. In this Mozart Year, the creator of P.D.Q. Bach will give a lecture on the great composer on December 7 in the sacred confines of the Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium.

We are looking forward to hearing some of the big guns with orchestras in our area, too. I'll be trying to go up to Meyerhoff Hall to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with pianist Barry Douglas, 1986 winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition and a great player. That's on October 13 and 14.

On October 18, the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra will play a free concert at the Library of Congress, with German violin prodigy Arabella Steinbacher. Also from Germany, the Munich Symphony Orchestra will perform with pianist Philippe Entremont, on October 22, at the George Mason University Center for the Arts (Fairfax, Va.). Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet will play a concert with the National Symphony, under guest conductor Stéphane Denève, on November 3 to 5, at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. That will probably be overshadowed by a pianist whom Jens has reservations about, Lang Lang, who will play with the NSO on December 1 to 3. On November 28, Christoph Eschenbach will bring the The Philadelphia Orchestra, to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, again thanks to WPAS.

The Washington National Opera is mounting two operas we are looking forward to this fall. This very evening, Mrs. Ionarts and I will be attending the premiere of Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani, which will continue through October 4. We have heard a lot from a certain New York opera blogger about Ukrainian soprano Maria Guleghina, and it will be a treat to watch Plácido Domingo at the podium. Of course, if WNO takes on just about any opera from the 20th century, we get too excited to make coherent sense anymore, so it's going to be great to see the November production (October 29 to November 19) of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. As for what comes in between, the so-called Trilogy, three unrelated single acts of operas smashed together, I was at least excited to hear Mirella Freni again (after loving her in Tchaikovsky's Maid of Orleans last season and long before that). La Freni has withdrawn, but you still have Domingo singing in all three acts, and Barbara Frittoli as Desdemona in the horrifying and sublime fourth act of Otello, marooned inappropriately between an act of Fedora and Merry Widow. I don't know what to say about it, but there you have it.

Maria Guleghina as Lady MacbethSome other operas we want to see this fall include the November 6 performance, by Opera Verdi Europa, of Verdi's Macbeth, at the George Mason University Center for the Arts in Fairfax. Coloratura soprano Valeria Esposito (whom we admired in Baltimore's Tales of Hoffmann last May) will perform the role of Amina in Vincenzo Bellini's La Sonnambula, up at Baltimore Opera (November 12, 16, 18, and 20). On October 30, we will probably take the opportunity to hear Puccini's Il Tabarro, performed by Washington Concert Opera, even though it is paired with the even more frequently performed Cavalleria Rusticana, which is not the sort of programming choice I would counsel for a concert opera company.

On October 18, we are excited to hear Renée Fleming in Richard Strauss's Daphne, with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, conducted by Semyon Bychkov, at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. La Fleming's new recording of Daphne will hopefully erase some of our bad experiences of her sacred songs CD. Another new opera recording we've been listening to at Ionarts, along with just about every other critic worldwide, is mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli's Opera Proibita. As part of her tour of pieces from that CD, La Bartoli will give a WPAS-sponsored recital on October 26 at the Kennedy Center. Other legendary singers performing in Washington this fall include Ian Bostridge, in an all-Schubert program on September 22, and Frederica Von Stade on December 10 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, sponsored by Vocal Arts Society.

We are by no means a dance site here at Ionarts, but we appreciate good dance performances as much as the next person. This fall, the Washington Ballet opens its season with a combination of Septime Webre's Carmen, George Balanchine's Serenade, and Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs, from November 2 to 6 at the Kennedy Center. Visiting troupes include the National Ballet of China (October 4 to 8, with a choreography based on Zhang Yimou's movie Raise the Red Lantern on October 7 and 8 only) and Suzanne Farrell Ballet, from November 22 to 27, presenting choreographies of Léo Delibes's La Source, Stravinsky's Duo Concertant, Ravel's La Valse, and Morton Gould's Clarinade, which was the first work choreographed by Balanchine for New York City Ballet.

There's modern dance, too, starting with a series of performances that are part of the Festival of China this October at the Kennedy Center. Three leading Chinese companies (the Beijing Modern Dance Company, City Contemporary Dance Company of Hong Kong, and Guangdong Modern Dance Company) will perform a Trilogy of Modern Dance from October 7 to 9. Also, from November 17 to 19, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will give performances in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. We have been wanting to see the Bill T. Jones choreography of Bach's famous Chaconne, given at the Pause Festival in Milan (the brain child of an Italian priest named Don Luigi Garbini) last May, but it is not on the program.

The concert season last year was heavy in early music, much to our delight, of course. There is less medieval and Renaissance music on our plates this year, but there are a few interesting concerts to tell you about. On October 23, the justly famous Choir of Westminster Abbey, directed by James O'Donnell, will be coming to give a concert of sacred music at Washington National Cathedral. The National Gallery of Art will be presenting a new exhibit, Masterpieces in Miniature: Italian Manuscripts from the J. Paul Getty Collection, that will include some precious manuscripts of medieval chant and Renaissance polyphony. In conjunction with that exhibit, there will be a special concert on November 6 by the National Gallery Vocal Arts Ensemble, consisting of pieces of Gregorian chant, laude, and polyphonic works by Palestrina found in the manuscripts on display.

Finally, we are looking forward to two performances by rising early music groups. First, on December 2, the Aulos Ensemble will perform works by Marais, Couperin, Rameau, and French Baroque seasonal music at Wolf Trap in Vienna. Then, also fresh off a new recording we hope to review this fall, the Trio Mediaeval, three Norwegian early music singers, will perform at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on December 11. Washington's own Woodley Ensemble will perform Palestrina's Missa Repleatur os meum at some time this fall (date not yet announced, purportedly at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Capitol Hill), along with Josquin des Prez's Stabat Mater and other works. Guest conductor Peter Phillips, founder of the Tallis Scholars, will conduct and provided the new edition of Palestrina's lesser-known Mass. If you can't get enough of rare Palestrina Mass settings, the Palestrina Choir will also perform the Missa Ave Maria on October 15, at Dumbarton United Methodist Church, along with motets by Josquin and others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have some great ideas :) Nevermind. Next time.