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Classical Music Agenda (December 2012)

December is the busiest month for most musicians, what with all the Nutcrackers, Messiahs, and Christmas concerts. I used to list all of them in our calendar, but it just did not seem worth it this year, so I have listed only the ones of some interest to me. As for what makes the cut for the Top 10 concerts we most want to hear this month, the leading contenders for the coveted Ionarts Best Christmas Concert Award are included.

Definitely worth the trip to Charm City this month is the recital by pianist Piotr Anderszewski (pictured), at Baltimore's Shriver Hall (December 2, 5:30 pm). The program includes two of Bach's English suites and Robert Schumann's op. 17 fantasy. Tickets: $39.

The other major pianist coming to town this month is the Chinese firecracker Yuja Wang, who will play Chopin's first piano concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra (December 6 to 8). Guest conductor Hans Graf will also lead performances of Lutoslawski's Trauermusik and Tchaikovsky's third symphony ("Polish"), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets: $85 to $10.

German composer Matthias Pintscher comes to Washington this month, to be featured on the Leading European Composer series at the Phillips Collection (December 13, 6:30 pm). He will be joined by members of the International Contemporary Ensemble, performing many of his chamber music works, in a concert cosponsored by the German Embassy. Tickets: $20.

Just in time for the start of Advent, one of my favorite Bach cantatas, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Come now, savior of the heathens), BWV 62, will be performed by members of the Washington Bach Consort's Noontime Cantata series (December 4, 12:10 pm), at the Church of the Epiphany downtown. Organist Todd Fickley will also play Bach's Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch, BWV 769. Tickets: FREE. If that is not enough Bach, the group's subscription concert of three of Bach's cantatas for Advent and Christmas (December 1, 5 pm) at National Presbyterian Church also looks good. Tickets: $65 to $23.

Miss Ionarts insists on seeing at least one production of The Nutcracker in December, and the one we most want to see this year is that of Utah's Ballet West, presented in the Kennedy Center Opera House (December 5 to 9). It is billed as the oldest complete Nutcracker production in the United States, and Alastair Macaulay named it the one of the best production he has ever seen. Macaulay should know -- he traveled around the United States a couple years ago, watching a pile of different productions, for a project called the Nutcracker Chronicles. This version will also feature live music, with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and the sung parts performed by the National Cathedral School Lower School Singers. Tickets: $150 to $45.

Pro Musica Hebraica is planning to present an annual concert for Hanukkah, and it opens the series this year (December 6, 7:30 pm) with a program of Jewish liturgical music performed by cantor Netanel Hershtik, the Hampton Synagogue Choir, the Amernet String Quartet, and pianist Alan Mason, in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Tickets: $38.

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If your tastes lean more toward the Counter-Reformation, there is A Palestrina Christmas, presented by the local choral ensemble Chantry, at the churches of St. Mary, Mother of God, in Chinatown (December 8) and St. Bernadette's in Silver Spring (December 15). Tickets: $27.

The Folger Consort, which has won the Ionarts Christmas Concert Award more than once, presents Florence: Christmas Music of the Trecento this year (December 14 to 23). The program of medieval laude, dances, and polyphony will be performed by the vocal ensemble Trio Eos and the Folger instrumentalists, in the beautiful Elizabethan theater of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Tickets: $50.

An interesting contender this year is The Passion of Scrooge or A Christmas Carol, performed by the 21st Century Consort (December 15, 5 pm). The concert combines Jon Deak’s setting of the Dickens classic and the Washington National Cathedral Girl Choristers in Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols. Tickets: $20.

Washington National Opera had big plans for an "annual tradition" when it mounted a December production of Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel at the Lincoln Theater in 2007. The plan lay unfulfilled until this year, when the company will present a modified version of that production in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (December 21 to 23). The staging is more candy cane and sweet dreams than the daring version by Virginia Opera last December. Tickets: $69 to $44.

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