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2011 Concert Preview

We just put the old year safely in the books, and it is already time to start planning for the rest of this season's concerts. What will be the must-hear events of the first half of 2011? Hit the ground running in January (or do some last-minute gift shopping) with a few picks for the Washington area: to give this some definition, we are limiting ourselves to just four picks for each category. Please feel free to argue and add your own picks in the comments section!

Without a doubt, the highlight of the orchestral season is the centerpiece of Christoph Eschenbach's first season as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra: Messiaen's transcendent Turangalîla-Symphonie (March 10 to 12). Add to it, for an extraordinary series of concerts in one month, excerpts from Roussel's Padmâvatî (March 3 to 5), with mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor, and Zemlinsky's Lyric Suite, with baritone Matthias Goerne (March 17 to 20). Our entire set of must-hear concerts in this category is rounded out by the end of the NSO season, with Eschenbach also conducting Jennifer Koh in Augusta Read Thomas's 2008 violin concerto -- no. 3, "Juggler in Paradise" (June 9 to 11).

The response of the NSO to Eschenbach on the podium has been most encouraging so far, but it is the programming in the second part of the season that pushes the NSO above the performances of several visiting orchestras: the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Japan (March 16), Boston Symphony (March 19), the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (April 12), and the Philadelphia Orchestra (May 20). The last one -- with Charles Dutoit conducting Strauss's Ein Heldenleben and Gil Shaham in Walton's violin concerto -- receives an honorable mention. Will Eschenbach's tenure be enough to raise the NSO's stature in critical esteem higher among American orchestras? Only time and more reviews will tell.

We are looking forward to the complete cycle of Beethoven’s string quartets, planned as part of the series of free concerts at the National Gallery of Art: the American String Quartet kicks it off on January 2, followed by the Ariel Quartet (February 6) and others. Another Beethoven quartet cycle, from the Candlelight Concert Society, continues with the Leipzig Quartet (March 5). Why not throw in the Beethoven piano trios, in a complete cycle from the Paris Piano Trio at Lorin Maazel's Châteauville Foundation down in Rappahannock County (February 12 and 13)? Hilary Hahn (Strathmore, February 27) makes the cut because of an intriguing program that combines sonatas by Ives, Antheil, and others.

For sheer pianistic fireworks, it is hard to beat Yuja Wang, who will play Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (February 10 to 13), paired with Bruckner's sixth symphony. For poetry with all that technique, we would never miss Evgeny Kissin, who comes with an all-Liszt program for the Liszt anniversary year (Kennedy Center, March 5). The same goes for what is likely to be one of the most memorable twilight moments in recent memory, the venerable Maurizio Pollini playing Beethoven's last three piano sonatas (Strathmore, March 30). Our other unmissable is Pierre-Laurent Aimard (Sixth and I Synagogue, May 5), playing Scriabin's "Black Mass" sonata.

By far, the most interesting of the three productions from Washington National Opera is the company's first (!) mounting of an opera by Gluck, Iphigénie en Tauride (May 6 to 28), with Patricia Racette and Plácido Domingo as the doomed brother and sister, Iphigenia and Orestes. Opera Lafayette will attempt to resurrect André Grétry's Le Magnifique (February 5) in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Washington Concert Opera will perform Massenet's Werther (May 22), starring tenor Giuseppe Filianoti (long awaited in Washington) and soprano Jennifer Larmore. American Opera Theater offers two intriguing stagings in February -- Kurtág's Kafka-Fragments and a double-bill of Dido and Aeneas and Melissa Dunphy's Gonzalez Cantata (a setting of the transcript from Alberto Gonzales's congressional hearing) -- if it actually happens, that is (February 3 to 13).

Solo recitals we definitely want to hear include Joyce DiDonato (February 15), co-presented at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall by WPAS and Vocal Arts D.C., and the lustrous Christine Brewer (March 23), presented by Vocal Arts at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (fingers crossed for Strauss!). Also high on our list will be the recital by Juan Diego Flórez (February 27), in an (unspecified) program of bel canto opera selections, the tenor's specialty. Washington Bach Consort performs a beautiful program for Easter, with Bach's motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied and the Easter Oratorio Kommt, eilet und laufet (May 1) -- pair it with the group's free noontime cantata offering of the Easter cantata Die Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubilieret (May 3).

We definitely want to hear viola da gambist Paolo Pandolfo when he comes to the Library of Congress with theorbist Thomas Boysen (February 26), especially with a program of music by Marin Marais and his legendary teacher, Sainte-Colombe. Also on the docket at the Library of Congress is a solo recital by harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock (March 29), a tribute to Wanda Landowska to include some pieces performed on Landowska's own Pleyel harpsichord. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine returns to Washington with her Trio Settecento, in a concert of French Baroque music (Lully, Couperin, Marais, Leclair, et al.) at Dumbarton Oaks (February 13 and 14). After a couple years of going on about the young British choir Stile Antico, we can finally recommend their Washington debut, with the Folger Consort (April 2).

The cheeky Baltimore series Mobtown Modern continues its winning ways with a performance of Philip Glass’s Glassworks (January 12) -- there is more Glass with a performance of the composer’s new work Icarus at the Edge of Time, too, by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (January 14 to 16). The Quatuor Diotima returns to La Maison Française (January 19), with a program including recent pieces by James Dillon, Roger Reynolds, Chaya Czernowin, and Emmanuel Nunes. The quirky chamber ensemble eighth blackbird comes to the Library of Congress (May 20), for an interesting program including the world premiere of a new piece by Stephen Hartke.


herman said...

It's all a matter of taste, but pairing Rachmaninov's 2nd piano concerto with Bruckner's 6th symphony sounds like an Only-in-America combination, especially with the technique-only Yuja Wang at the piano.


jfl said...