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Classical Music Agenda: November 2012

Assuming that cultural life continues in the wake of Hurricane Sandy's visit to Washington, here are the ten concerts we most want to hear in the month of November. We had to leave out many worthy choices, but this exercise would not really be any fun if we did not. Keep your eye on the sidebar for many more options.

It is true that Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is a difficult work to love. It is not for nothing that Theodor Adorno observed that "there is, of course, among musicians an underground tradition of critical reserve" about the Missa Solemnis. It is a massive, often unwieldy work that taxes its performers in cruel ways, but unlike the ninth symphony, it does not instantly engender affection. Even so, Christoph Eschenbach has done some wonderful things with large-scale works thus far, and the chance to hear him have a crack at this one is not to be missed, when he leads two performances with the National Symphony Orchestra (November 1 and 3) and the Choral Arts Society of Washington. Soprano Anne Schwanewilms has withdrawn from the vocal quartet because of illness, but soprano Erin Wall should be up to snuff as her replacement. To give the singers a night off, some principal members of the NSO will perform a program of Beethoven's chamber music (November 2, 8 pm), including the lovely wind quintet with Christoph Eschenbach at the piano. Tickets: $10 to $85.

The same weekend, Lang Lang blows into town for a week-long residency with the NSO and Christoph Eschenbach, who has been one of his mentors. The events begin with a solo recital (November 4, 4 pm), where he will play three Mozart sonatas and all four of Chopin's ballades. Lang Lang then partners with Eschenbach for a two-piano recital -- some of my favorite music by Mozart and Schubert (November 7, 8 pm). For its concerts that week, the NSO will play Strauss's Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche and Dvořák's seventh symphony, with Lang Lang playing a different Beethoven piano concerto each night — nos. 2 (November 8), 3 (November 9), and 5 (November 10) — a circus trick of epic proportions. In the midst of it all, Lang Lang takes the stage with one hundred of the best young pianists from the Washington area (November 10, 4 pm). All events take place in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets: $10 to $85.

After a long period of installation and fine-tuning, most of which had to take place in the middle of the night when the Kennedy Center Concert Hall was not in use, that venue will get its new organ. NSO organist William Neil will put the instrument through its paces at an inaugural concert (November 27, 6 pm), in some solo works, a Gabrieli piece with brass, and the Saint-Saëns "Organ-Symphony" with the NSO. Tickets: FREE (tickets are distributed beginning at 5 pm on the day of the performance in the Hall of Nations).

We think it would be worthwhile to make the trip up to Baltimore for the concert by Europa Galante this weekend (November 4, 5:30 pm), when violinist Fabio Biondi will lead performances of music by Corelli, Couperin, C.P.E. Bach, and Vivaldi at Shriver Hall. Tickets: $39.

The quartet of women known as Anonymous 4 comes back to the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater this month (November 28, 7:30 pm), to perform love fail, a new work by David Lang based in part on the lais of Marie de France. If Lang's Little Match Girl Passion is any indication, it will be something to hear. Tickets: $38.

We picked this month's recital by soprano Angela Meade for our best of the season preview. Hopefully you bought your tickets then for this concert presented by Washington National Opera in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (November 10, 7:30 pm), because it is now sold out.

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Bach and Beyond, Part 1, J. Koh
In terms of devotion, that of Ionarts to the Takács Quartet is unparalleled. So, of course, we would not be anywhere else this month when they play at the Library of Congress (November 13, 8 pm), with a program including Schubert's "Rosamunde" Quartet and Britten's first quartet. But wait, there's more: Marc-André Hamelin will join them for Shostakovich's Piano Quintet in G minor, op. 57. Tickets: FREE.

The Library of Congress for the win: the venue and its excellent auditorium will also host the Apollon Musagète Quartet this month (November 16, 8 pm). Our own Jens Laurson labeled this rising young quartet "very promising" when he heard them at the ARD Competition in 2008. The program combines more Haydn -- always welcome -- plus Szymanowski, Suk, and Mendelssohn. Tickets: FREE.

Finally, we have been impressed with the playing of violinist Jennifer Koh, who brings her Bach and Beyond project to the Mansion at Strathmore this month (November 14, 7:30 pm). Tickets: $30.

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