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The Season to Come, 2012-2013

Here in Washington, there is relatively little to hear in the sleepy month of August, and one's ears start to think ahead to the fall. Most people, of course, cannot afford to hear everything on offer. What are the performances that you should mark on your calendar now, the ones you do not want to miss? Here are my picks for the Top 25 events in classical music in the season to come. It was a difficult mark to reach, and some concerts were eliminated because of an overlap of dates, so watch for our monthly agenda throughout the year for many more worthy choices.

Get your fill of the poisonous politics of the Tudor era with Donizetti's Anna Bolena, about the fall and execution of Anne Boleyn. American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky makes her role debut as the doomed queen, in a production directed by Stephen Lawless at Washington National Opera (September 15 to October 6). Tickets: $25 to $300. (For more Tudor-era opera, pair it with Washington Concert Opera's performance of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, with Georgia Jarman and Brenda Harris as the rivals Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I, on April 7.)

We love our ballet at Ionarts, as long as it is accompanied by live music. Top dance pick for the year goes to the visit of Mariinsky Ballet to the Kennedy Center Opera House this fall. The St. Petersburg troupe will perform Prokofiev's Cinderella, in the modernized and somewhat controversial choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, last seen in Washington in 2005. The casting has not yet been announced (October 16 to 21). Tickets: $29 to $150.

Rameau, Tic Toc Choc, pianist Alexandre Tharaud
with Anthony Benichol and Boris Ventura Diaz
We missed the first visit of Alexandre Tharaud to Washington, in 2005, but we do not intend to make that mistake again. The French pianist, last here in 2010 and 2008, will return to the auditorium of La Maison Française (October 26). The program has not yet been announced, but whatever he plays -- his Scarlatti, Bach, Rameau, Chopin, Satie have all been good -- we will be there. Tickets: $25.

Shortly after that is the first highlight of the season offered by Washington Performing Arts Society, which hosts the highest-profile concerts in the area. Hungarian pianist András Schiff will play the second book of J. S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier in the Music Center at Strathmore (October 30). After Schumann in 2010 and Beethoven in 2008, this program offers an intense chance to appreciate Schiff's way with "the supreme arbiter and law-giver of music," as Nicolas Slonimsky once described J. S. Bach. Tickets: $34 to $95.

If you do not have Halloween responsibilities, the high point of a fine season from Vocal Arts D.C. will be the recital by soprano Christine Brewer, at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (October 31). You can read my reviews of her recitals in 2011 and 2010 for the list of superlatives that apply. With pianist Craig Rutenberg, she will perform songs by Turina, Mompou, Toldra, Obradors, Copland, Barber, and Bolcom. Tickets: $45.

From an attractive season for the National Symphony Orchestra, the first concert to make our list is Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (November 1 to 3). Not that the work has not been performed in recent years, because it certainly has (the Cathedral Choral Society in 2011, the Choral Arts Society of Washington in 2006), but because a great performance has been elusive. Whether Christoph Eschenbach can deliver that remains to be seen, but a fine quartet of soloists headed by Anne Schwanewilms gives one hope. It will also be the first major performance by the Choral Arts Society of Washington under its new leader, Scott Tucker. Tickets: $10 to $85.

Marie de France writing the Lais
The series of Sunday concerts at Shriver Hall regular offers good reasons to make the trip up to Baltimore. The first one in the year to come will be to hear Europa Galante, on its first visit here since 2008. The historically informed performance ensemble from Italy, with its leader Fabio Biondi, will play music by Corelli, Couperin, C.P.E. Bach, and Vivaldi (November 4). Tickets: $39.

David Lang's Little Match Girl Passion, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, really struck me as an important piece of music. So I am looking forward to hearing Lang's new work for voices, love fail, an "evening length work" with a libretto based on the beautiful medieval lais of Marie de France. The excellent quartet of women, Anonymous 4, performs the piece, a co-commission of the Fortas Chamber Music Series, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (November 28). Tickets: $38.

While the upcoming season is not as exciting for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the screening of Sergei Eisenstein's classic film Alexander Nevsky definitely makes our list. The BSO will give a live performance of Prokofiev's film score, in the Music Center at Strathmore (January 12). Tickets: $30 to $90.

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine
We love the playing of violinist Rachel Barton Pine, and you have to admire her moxie. She will perform all 24 of Paganini's death-defying Caprices this winter, the first twelve at the Phillips Collection and the rest later the same evening at the National Gallery of Art (January 27). Tickets: $20 (Phillips) and Free (NGA).

The other Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert we do not want to miss is the latest engagement of conductor Hannu Lintu, who has been alternating appearances between the NSO and BSO. He will return with some more Sibelius, the second symphony, Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini, plus Stephen Hough in Liszt's second piano concerto, at Strathmore (February 7). Tickets: $30 to $90.

The Phillips Collection has a fine season in store, including the continuation of its lecture series featuring Leading European Composers. This year's visits include two we do not want to miss, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho (February 21) and German composer Matthias Pintscher (December 13). Tickets: $20.

Also at the Phillips Collection that month is a recital by pianist Alexander Melnikov, whose playing we have gotten to know through his recordings for Harmonia Mundi. He will play music by Schumann, Scriabin, and Prokofiev (February 24). Tickets: $20.

The second concert we really want to hear from the NSO is an all-Finnish program led by Christoph Eschenbach, including two Sibelius symphonies (6th and 7th -- maybe we can patch together a complete cycle this year!), Magnus Lindberg's violin concerto with Pekka Kuusisto as soloist, and Kaija Saariaho's Orion (February 28 to March 2). Tickets: $10 to $85.

Soprano Angela Meade
All lovers of classical music should take advantage of the free concerts at the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, and -- returning this year for a shortened season -- the National Academy of Sciences. We will recommend many more of them, but top pick at the Library of Congress is a recital of Schubert sonatas from pianist Paul Lewis (March 2). Tickets: FREE.

The other production we most want to see at Washington National Opera is the new staging of Bellini's Norma by Anne Bogart. The reason to hear it is the pairing of Angela Meade's Norma and Dolora Zajick's Adalgisa (March 9 to 24). Tickets: $25 to $300. Get ready for the event with a recital by Angela Meade, with piano, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater this fall (November 10). Tickets: $60.

Of a few excellent visiting orchestras being hosted by WPAS, we would not want to miss the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra with Michael Tilson Thomas, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Especially when they will play Mahler's ninth symphony, as we are fans of MTT's Mahler cycle (March 23). Tickets: $45 to $115.

Back at the Library of Congress, harpsichordist Christophe Rousset will be performing a sort of travelogue, made up of pieces evoking various national characters, by Rameau and Couperin (April 13). Tickets: FREE.

When pianist Maurizio Pollini canceled his last WPAS recital in March 2011, we thought it might have been the last chance to hear him play in Washington. We are happy to report that we were wrong about that, because the Italian pianist will perform next spring, not with WPAS as it turns out, but in the Music Center at Strathmore (April 14). Tickets: $38 to $78.

The second visiting orchestra on the WPAS series that made our list is the Dresden Staatskapelle, which will perform an all-Brahms program with its new music director, Christian Thielemann: the Academic Festival Overture, the fourth symphony, and the violin concerto with Lisa Batiashvili as soloist, at Strathmore (April 16). Tickets: $41 to $115.

Pianist Evgeny Kissin
If you missed the Washington debut of the British choral ensemble Stile Antico last year, you will have a second chance to hear them at the Library of Congress, performing their signature oeuvre, Renaissance masterworks (April 17). Tickets: FREE.

Pianist Evgeny Kissin generally comes to Washington every couple of years, and we do not miss a performance of his. He will be presented again next spring by WPAS, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, playing Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Liszt (April 24). Tickets: $45 to $125.

The best historically informed performance ensemble in the area, Opera Lafayette, will perform Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Actéon, a charming hunting opera about Diana and Acteon, at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (May 1 and 2). Tickets: $55 to $70.

Our last choice from the NSO season is Christoph Eschenbach's tribute to Mstislav Rostropovich, with symphonies by Alfred Schnittke (no. 6) and Dmitri Shostakovich (no. 5), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (May 3). Tickets: $10 to $85.

Finally, after starting the year with a city-wide festival for the John Cage centennial (September 4 to 10), you can end it with a living composer, when John Adams has a residency at the Library of Congress, a series of three concerts featuring his music (May 22 to 24). Tickets: FREE.

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