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2006 Concert Preview

Washington, it is never too early to start planning your concert life in the New Year. Here are some dates to pencil in on your calendar.

We are looking forward to visits by several orchestras this winter and spring, beginning with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on January 20, led by conductor Charles Dutoit, at the George Mason University Center for the Arts in Fairfax. On February 13, renowned conductor Mariss Jansons will arrive with his new group, the Royal Concertgebouw, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, sponsored by Washington Performing Arts Society. The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields comes to Strathmore on February 26, with violinist Gil Shaham as their guest conductor. Back to back with that concert, on February 27, the Jerusalem Symphony with Leon Botstein, conductor, will show up at Strathmore. The program includes music by Martinů, Copland, and Prokofiev. On March 10, you could hear the Russian National Orchestra, the group created by Mikhail Pletnev (see my post from October 24) at the George Mason University Center for the Arts, if you can stand the trip out to Fairfax.

However, the big kahuna arrives the following day, on the afternoon of March 11, when James Levine brings the Boston Symphony Orchestra to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, hosted by WPAS. The program includes Elliott Carter's Three Illusions for Orchestra and Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs, sung -- hopefully -- by the composer's wife, the incomparable Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Frank heard this program at its premiere in Boston. A few weeks later, on March 27, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Kurt Masur will be at the Kennedy Center, with Britten's Simple Symphony and Khachaturian's D minor violin concerto. On the afternoon of April 22, it will be the San Francisco Symphony's turn at the Kennedy Center, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting, again hosted by WPAS. This exciting program includes Debussy's Jeux, Berg's Lulu Suite, Wagner's music for Siegfried's Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung, and the Adagio from Mahler's tenth symphony, with soprano Celena Shafer, whom we have praised before.

Both the major orchestras in the area have full seasons, but a few events stand out as particularly important. From April 13 to 15, renowned German conductor Helmuth Rilling will lead the National Symphony Orchestra -- his first appearance at that podium -- in a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, with the University of Maryland Concert Choir and the Children’s Chorus of Washington. From April 27 to 29, Mstislav Rostropovich will return to lead the NSO in a marvelous program including Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a, and Dutilleux's Correspondances (2003), the latter with soprano Dawn Upshaw, in her first appearance with the NSO.

The same weekend -- April 27, 28, and 30 -- guest conductor Carlos Kalmar will lead the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in a program including John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003. This particular concert will be presented only at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, not at Strathmore. I, for one, look forward to the chance to hear this piece performed live. The BSO will also host violinist Julia Fischer on the weekend of May 25 to 27, to play Beethoven's violin concerto on a program with the Shostakovich first symphony.

The major event of the spring for me is the March 19 concert of viola da gamba player Jordi Savall and his group Hesperion XXI, at Shriver Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. The program is a survey of folias and pasacalles from 16th- and 17th-century Spain. Unfortunately, the compulsory trip to Charm City will preclude my attendance at another March 19 concert, by Cleveland's Baroque orchestra, Apollo’s Fire, in an all-Bach program at the National Academies of Science. Finally, Giuliano Carmignola is now directing the Academy of Ancient Music, who will give a concert on April 5 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park.

The Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences will present a recital on January 8 by baritone Randall Scarlata. Mostly, I want to hear this concert because Scarlata's accompanist will be Jeremy Denk, who is also a blogger. Bass-baritone Alan Held -- who was impressive in Samson et Dalila last season -- will give a recital on February 3 at Wolf Trap, with pianist Kim Pensinger Witman, who directs the Wolf Trap Opera Company and writes a blog about the experience. Dame Felicity Lott will give a recital with pianist Graham Johnson in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on February 9.

Meredith MonkOn the afternoon of February 12, we look forward to hearing tenor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt with Opera Lafayette in a program of Rameau airs at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park. That event could not be more different from the February 25 appearance of Meredith Monk and her Vocal Ensemble for The Impermanence Project, at the George Mason University Center for the Arts in Fairfax. We don't want to miss that. We had to miss Ian Bostridge's recital here in Washington this fall, but we will have another chance on March 10, when he will perform at the Library of Congress with pianist Julius Drake and the Belcea Quartet.

The Kirov Opera (or Mariinsky Theater) will be in residence at the Kennedy Center, with Valery Gergiev conducting. They will give a few performances of Puccini's Turandot (February 19, 23, and 25) and Wagner's Parsifal (February 21 and 26). After that, we will be making a trip up to Baltimore Opera to see their production of Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking (March 11 to 19). Then, from the operatic backwaters, Washington Concert Opera will present what promises to be a beautiful concert version of Rossini's Tancredi (April 2). Speaking of concert versions, Leonard Slatkin will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra and a cast of mostly local singers in a semi-staged performance of Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio (January 26 to 28).

Washington National Opera's spring season offers several promising productions, beginning with the first installment of Francesca Zambello's new Ring cycle, with Wagner, Das Rheingold (March 25 to April 19). The chance to hear Elizabeth Futral as Adina makes the next production, Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, a whole lot more attractive (April 1 to 17). Both May productions are of interest, too. First, one of the rarer operas of Mozart, La Clemenza di Tito (May 6 to 27). Finally, another less thrilling choice in the repertory, Rossini's L'Italiana in Algeri, offers what is probably the best cast of the season in Olga Borodina, Juan Diego Flórez, and Lyubov Petrova (May 13 to June 3).

For those willing to travel a little bit farther out of the immediate area, Ionarts recommends the latest production of Richard Danielpour's new opera, Margaret Garner, at Opera Company of Philadelphia (February 10 to 26), which we are hoping to catch. (If you miss it there, there will be another production from Opera Carolina in Charlotte, from April 20 to 23.) Despite my best efforts, we still do not have any staged Baroque operas here in Washington this winter or spring. This means we will be trying to go up to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to see William Christie's group Les Arts Florissants in a staged performance of Handel's oratorio version of Hercules (February 14 to 19). It would be a lot of opera in February, but there is a production of Handel's Xerxes at the Pittsburgh Opera (February 18 to 26), which we want to see, too.

There is a critical mass of pianists giving recitals in the Washington area this winter and spring, too. On February 7, Alfred Brendel will play in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, sponsored by WPAS. He will perform sonatas by Haydn and Schubert, as well as some obligatory pieces by Mozart. WPAS is also bringing Roberto Cominati to the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater for his Washington area debut on March 18. He will play a challenging program including lots of Debussy and Schumann's Carnaval.

Perhaps most exciting in this category is the March 29 recital by Murray Perahia at Strathmore, also hosted by WPAS. No announcement yet about what he will play. This is closely matched by the piano celebration at Shriver Hall at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, which will host Krystian Zimerman on April 7, Leon Fleischer -- using both hands on the Schubert B-flat sonata -- on April 8, and Fazil Say -- somehow performing Stravinsky's Rite of Spring -- on April 9.

Maurizio PolliniNot enough yet? In the later spring, Lang Lang -- who was well reviewed here at Ionarts, with the NSO on December 1 -- will give a recital on April 13 at Strathmore, again thanks to WPAS. Back at Shriver Hall, Angela Hewitt -- last heard at the National Gallery two years ago -- will play a recital on May 14, with the great combination of a Rameau suite, a Bach partita, and a Brahms sonata. In the same week, on May 17, Ionarts favorite Maurizio Pollini -- who thrilled both Ionarts music critics in October 2004 -- will return to the area, this time playing a recital at Strathmore for WPAS.

Pinchas Zukerman brings his Zukerman Chamber Players for a concert at Shriver Hall, up in Baltimore (January 8). Zukerman comes to Washington for a recital, with his friend Itzhak Perlman, of music for two violins or violin and viola, at the Kennedy Center (April 24). We'll obviously have to go back to Baltimore on March 31, for the recital by violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Nikolai Lugansky at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. No one will want to miss the chance to hear Yo-Yo Ma play classical music for a change, when he performs three of the unaccompanied Bach suites on April 4, to what will surely be a sold-out crowd at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

The Klavier Trio Amsterdam will join forces with violist Roger Tapping for two performances in Washington: January 20 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and January 21 at La Maison Française. Tapping's former group and Ionarts favorite, the Takács Quartet, will play at the Corcoran on March 31.

Farther afield, the Jerusalem Quartet will perform on April 22 and 23 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, out in Rockville, a venue we have been meaning to attempt to visit. We should be able to go there, since we will hopefully make the trip farther out to Baltimore to hear the fraternal duo of violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Gautier Capuçon -- young talents championed by none other than Martha Argerich, with an unusual program, too -- at Shriver Hall on January 29. We will most likely be back at Shriver Hall to hear the Vienna Piano Trio, too, on February 26, whose program includes a trio arrangement of Schoenberg's gorgeous Verklärte Nacht.

Dance is not one of our major concerns here at Ionarts, but we are hoping to see the Mark Morris Dance Group at the George Mason University Center for the Arts, in Fairfax, on February 10 and 11. Also, because we like to laugh, we are very happy to report that Peter Schickele's lecture at the Library of Congress -- what a conjunction! -- that was cancelled on its original date of December 7 has been rescheduled for February 17.


Princess Alpenrose said...

Wow, yum! Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this. Highly appreciated.

Charles T. Downey said...

Glad you enjoyed it. We'll see you there.