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Classical Music Agenda: March 2012

March is an outrageously busy month for classical music here in Washington. To whittle the monthly picks down to the maximum limit of ten took considerable effort, but here it is, our top picks for the month of March. For the full calendar for March, follow the link at the bottom of the page: it will run through the sidebar, too.

The last time we had the chance to hear the Jerusalem String Quartet, it was at an ill-fated concert at the Library of Congress (we missed their last visit, to JCCGW in Rockville, in 2009). The group's performances for the Israel Defense Forces, when they are back in Israel, have been blamed for protests at this and other concerts. Please leave your politics at the door for their upcoming performance in the Barns at Wolf Trap, and just enjoy their Debussy, Beethoven, and especially Shostakovich. March 2, 8 pm. Tickets: $35.

Steven Osborne has made a series of fine recordings for Hyperion, all of them worth listening to, and the Scottish pianist returns to the area for a solo recital for the first time since 2005. In a concert at the Phillips Collection, one of the most intimate spaces for music in the city, he will play music by Beethoven, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninoff. March 11, 4 pm. Tickets: $20.

We always advise being in the house for the biennial visit of pianist Murray Perahia, last here in 2009. Washington Performing Arts Society will present him again in the Music Center at Strathmore, playing music by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and Chopin, much the same kind of assortment he has played on his recent visits. March 18, 4 pm. Tickets: $35 to $85.

The highlights of the Kennedy Center's Music of Budapest, Prague, and Vienna Festival are mostly the concerts involving singing. Washington National Opera kicked off the festival on Saturday with an underwhelming production of Così fan tutte, but it continues next week with a performance of Schubert's icy song cycle Winterreise, performed by baritone Matthias Goerne with Christoph Eschenbach at the piano, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. March 5, 7:30 pm. Tickets: SOLD OUT.

Among many alluring festival concerts from the National Symphony Orchestra, we most recommend hearing Matthias Goerne with the blazing mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, in a concert performance of Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's Castle paired with the suite from The Miraculous Mandarin. March 8 and 10, Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets: $20 to $85.

Pair that with the NSO's performance of Dvořák's setting of the Stabat mater, with a fine quartet of soloists: Anne Schwanewilms, Nathalie Stutzmann, Steve Davislim, and Robert Holl. This rounds out quite a list of singers you do not want to miss this month, all thanks to the programming of Christoph Eschenbach. March 22 and 24, Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets: $20 to $85.

Our first pick in the pre-1800 division goes to a local ensemble, the Washington Bach Consort. The group's Tuesday noontime cantata series is one of the best free concert opportunities in the city. This month take in Bach's Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23, with other music played by harpsichordist Joseph Gascho, at the Church of the Epiphany downtown. March 6, 12:10 pm. Tickets: FREE. On the instrumental side, we also recommend their performance of Die Kunst der Fugue, BWV 1080, which will reportedly feature string ensemble, harpsichord, and organ in various combinations. March 25, National Presbyterian Church. Tickets: $23 to $65.

Another tip of our historically informed hat to a visiting ensemble, the always diverting L'Arpeggiata, directed by Christina Pluhar. They will bring their Tarantella program, with singer Lucilla Galeazzi, to the Library of Congress. You can reserve tickets through Ticketmaster, for the usual fees, or take your chances and show up early to wait on line for an unclaimed seat. March 19, 8 pm. Tickets: FREE.

In the category of unusual, we recommend the performance of Samuel Beckett's short play Ohio Impromptu, to be followed by the Cygnus Ensemble performing music by Dina Koston (inspired by the Beckett play) and others, at the Library of Congress. March 7, 8 pm. Tickets: FREE.

Equally unusual, the New York-based puppeteer Basil Twist, known for choreographing his performances to music, will be in the area this month, for what is being billed as the Twist Festival D.C. (continuing next month at other venues). First, he will be performing his puppet version of Stravinsky's Petrushka, at the Shakespeare Theater Company. Petrushka, of course, is about the inner lives of puppets in a Shrovetide Fair show, so to bring the story to life through puppets was a natural choice. The music includes Stravinsky's Sonata for Two Pianos, used as a sort of introduction, and the score of Petrushka, in a special arrangement for two pianos. March 16 to 25, Lansbergh Theater. Tickets: $22.50 to $50. After that, Twist will give three performances of his notorious choreography of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, in which the puppeteers mostly perform in an enormous water tank on the stage. Twist brings this unusual production to the campus of the University of Maryland in College Park, with music provided in a transcription by pianist Christopher O'Riley. March 29 to 31, Clarice Smith Center. Tickets: $45.

See the full concert calendar for the month of March.

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