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Classical Music Agenda (September 2012)

If you, like me, spent the last couple concert-less weeks in withdrawal, be happy that September is just around the corner. Of course, we have already taken a look at the season to come and chosen the Top 25 concerts we most want to hear this season. Truth be told, your editor will likely hear four or five times that many performances between now and next June. For those of you new to how this works, each month I pick the ten most intriguing performances on the calendar. Keeping the number lower makes these agendas more selective, but you can always follow the complete calendar of everything we know about in Washington, in the right-hand column of this page.

Tenor Aaron Sheehan
We have written about Sondra Radvanovsky at the Metropolitan Opera and here in Washington. The American soprano is back at Washington National Opera this month, this time at the top of the bill, in the title role of Donizetti's Anna Bolena (September 15 to October 6). The Jane Seymour of mezzo-soprano Sonia Ganassi, heard last season in Massenet's Werther, should be a good foil for Radvanovsky's Anne Boleyn. Tickets: $25 to $300.

The weekend of the opening of Anna Bolena will have enough bel canto mad scenes to stun a small cat, since it also features Washington Concert Opera's performance of Bellini's La Sonnambula (September 16, 2 pm). Eglise Gutiérrez, heard in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi this summer, stars as the sleepwalking Amina, with René Barbera (Elvino), Ben Wager (Rodolfo), and Maureen McKay (Lisa). Tickets: $40 to $110.

One of the singers I am most looking forward to hearing again is tenor Aaron Sheehan, a clear and beautiful voice for early music, in a program called London: Music from the City of Shakespeare with the Folger Consort (September 28 to 30). The program of London-based music by Orlando Gibbons, Thomas Morley, and William Byrd should fill the Folger Shakespeare Library's Elizabethan theater quite nicely. Tickets: $37.

One thing that did not make my season's best was the John Cage Centennial Festival, in honor of what would have been his 100th birthday on September 5. As I have written before, Cage is one of those composers whose influence is hard to overestimate but whose music can be insufferable: I can appreciate the ideas but often abhor the practice. That being said, the Cage celebrations (from September 4 to 10) will bring together a welcome selection of concerts, film screenings, and lectures at several of the city's cultural institutions. Highlights include recitals by Alexis Descharmes and Friends (September 5, La Maison Française), violinist Irvine Arditti (September 6, Phillips Collection), and pianist Stephen Drury (September 8, Kreeger Museum).

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter
We generally do not like to recommend gala concerts: with the focus on other matters, the music usually stinks. Christoph Eschenbach has actually made an effort to make his season opening gala concerts not stink, and once again the National Symphony Orchestra's Season Opening Ball Concert (September 30, 7 pm) has music we actually want to hear: Beethoven's overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, star violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter in Mendelssohn's chestnut violin concerto and Sarasate's showoff Carmen Fantasy, and a reprise of Strauss's suite from Der Rosenkavalier, heard at the end of last season. Tickets: $47 to $125.

Speaking of good programming, the all-American season opener from the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (September 22, 8 pm) gets a nod this month. Soloist Jeffrey Biegel joins for the local premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's 2011 piano concerto Shadows, co-commissioned by eight orchestras in different countries, matched with short dance pieces by John Adams and Leonard Bernstein, as well as Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, at the GMU Center for the Arts in Fairfax. Tickets: $25 to $55.

The University of Maryland Chamber Singers join forces with members of the U.S. Army Band and Soldiers' Chorus for an all-Stravinsky program (September 24, 8 pm) at Clarice Smith Center in College Park. This free concert pairs L'Histoire du Soldat and the composer's concise setting of the Latin Mass. Tickets: Free.

It is a bit of a stretch to say that the first concert from the Washington Bach Consort features "music for the political season," a connection that would surely make me run the other direction. It does feature, however, English music for royal occasions by John Blow, William Boyce, Handel, and Orlando Gibbons, as well as two cantatas composed by J. S. Bach for the Ratswechsel, or inauguration of the town council, in Leipzig. Tickets: $23 to $65.

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