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Classical Music Agenda: January 2012

Readers have long been asking for a monthly feature with picks for the best things to hear in the month to come. It is the sort of piece I have often written for other outlets, and now it will run here instead. My goal for this Classical Music Agenda is to have the widest possible awareness of what is being performed, from which only the most promising performances, no more than ten, will be selected each month.

As noted earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI has announced his plan to make clear and final the canonization of Hildegard von Bingen, the medieval abbess, mystic, and composer. Celebrate this most unusual woman, who will also be given the title Doctor of the Church, with a concert of her music by the outstanding vocal quartet Anonymous 4, joining with the period string players of the Folger Consort. The program also includes later medieval pieces by the composers of the Notre Dame school. January 6 and 7, 8 pm, in Washington National Cathedral, where the listening experience will be better the closer you are to the performers. Tickets: $30 to $50.

We have long been admirers of the playing of viola da gambist Paolo Pandolfo. You should not pass up the chance to hear him play at the Library of Congress, in a program that will combine music of J. S. Bach and the lesser-known Carl Friedrich Abel. January 28, 2 pm. Tickets: Free.

A recommendation for a trip to Baltimore does not come easily, but the concert by the Canadian HIP ensemble Les Violons du Roy at Shriver Hall, the only one in our area this season, is worth it. The program features music by Handel, Telemann, Sammartini, and Geminiani, with recorder player Maurice Steger as soloist. January 29, 5:30 pm. Tickets: $38.

Hannu Lintu's recent appearances with the National Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra have been highlights of past seasons. The Finnish conductor returns to the NSO this month, with the added incentive of firecracker violinist Leila Josefowicz, to present Steven Mackey's violin concerto Beautiful Passing. Also on the program are a set of Debussy's preludes, orchestrated by Colin Matthews, and Sibelius's fifth symphony. January 12 to 14, Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets: $20 to $85.

Hannu Lintu
Conductor Hannu Lintu
Christoph Eschenbach also offers a striking program with the NSO later this month. Jörg Widmann will serve as soloist in Mozart's golden clarinet concerto, as well as offer one of his own compositions, Armonica, featuring Christa Schönfeldinger on the glass armonica, the zany instrument featured earlier this year in Lucia di Lammermoor. January 26 to 29, Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets: $20 to $85.

Most of Opera Lafayette's performances recommend themselves, and even when they might disappoint it is still worth hearing lesser-known operas. Such is the case with this month's staged performance of Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny's opéra-comique Le Roi et le Fermier, which receives its modern-day premiere, in preparation for the company's debut in February at the Royal Opera in Versailles. January 20, Atlas Performing Arts Center (tickets, $20); January 21, 7:30 pm, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (tickets, $65 -- SOLD OUT).

I had the chance to speak to violinist Joshua Bell earlier this month, about his upcoming WPAS recital, with pianist Sam Haywood. He was quick to confirm that he will not be performing incognito in the Metro this time, and for the rest of what he said look for an interview piece here later this month. Although I characterized his program as following his typical Romantic bent, Bell sees it as contrasting classical impulses (Mendelssohn and Brahms) with Romantic ones (Ravel, Ysaÿe, Gershwin). January 23, 8 pm, Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets: $45 to $115.

In the dance slot this month, among a few excellent choices, is the outstanding choreography of Handel's L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato by Mark Morris Dance Group. Morris's dances are always carefully matched to the music they set, performed live in this case by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, choral singers from the Washington Bach Consort, and four fine vocal soloists. Not to be missed. January 26 to 28, 7:30 pm, Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets: $19 to $69.

The National Gallery of Art is reopening its 19th-Century French Galleries, and there is un tas de concerts to celebrate the event on the last weekend of the month. Performers include Men in Blaque, an unusual all-male choir from the University of California at Irvine, the Grammy-winning organist Paul Jacobs, The Singers Companye, organist Alexander Frey, and the NGA Vocal Ensemble. January 28 and 29, various times, NGA West Building. Tickets: Free.

You can be the judge of the opera singers of tomorrow, by attending the Metropolitan Opera National Council's Middle Atlantic Region Auditions. The best young singers from this part of the world will have the chance to sing two arias each, competing for the chance to go to New York for the national competition and a possible spot in the Met's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. January 29, 2 pm, Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Tickets: $32.

See the full calendar for the month of January.

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