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Classical Music Agenda (May 2013)

In May, we are leading with the living composers who are coming to the area and whose music will be performed here. Equally high in our estimation are some definitely dead composers also being performed here next month. Here are the Top 10 choices, but many more concerts will run through the calendar in the sidebar.

Composer John Adams
The last time that we reviewed Meredith Monk and her performing ensemble in the area was the 2006 performance of Impermanence, at a pathetically third-filled hall at George Mason University. Hopefully, she will have better luck drawing an audience at the Clarice Smith Center in College Park, when she and her Vocal Ensemble perform On Behalf of Nature (May 4, 8 pm). Monk's multimedia approach, which combines voice, movement, video, rhythm, and light, has to be experienced live to be understood. Do not miss. Tickets: $35.

American composer George Crumb is the focus of a concert by Orchestra 2001, with soprano Ann Crumb performing her husband father's music (Night of the Four Moons and Voices from the Heartland), at the Library of Congress. The program also features the world premiere of a piece by Chaya Czernowin, Slow Summer Stay II: Lakes. Tickets: FREE.

May is also John Adams Month in Washington, centered on a residency by the celebrated American composer at the Library of Congress. The Attacca Quartet will play Adams's String Quartet and the world premiere of a new work by Timothy Andres (March 22, 8 pm); Jennifer Koh and Reiko Uchida will play Adams's Road Movies and Esa-Pekka Salonen's Lachen verlernt (March 23, 8 pm); and the International Contemporary Ensemble will play Adams's Son of Chamber Symphony (March 24, 8 pm). Tickets: FREE.

More Adams earlier in the month, too, with pieces performed by two local orchestras. The University of Maryland Symphony will also perform the Son of Chamber Symphony, in an excellent program of Ives, Verdi, and Stravinsky (May 3, 8 pm), at the Clarice Smith Center. Tickets: $25. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will play Shaker Loops, on a program that includes Prokofiev's fourth symphony and a tiresome piece by Jennifer Higdon that I do not recommend (May 2, Strathmore; May 4, Meyerhoff Hall). Tickets: $31 to $91.

Tenor Aaron Sheehan
John Adams will remain in Washington the week after the Library of Congress residency, to serve as guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra (May 30 to June 1). He will lead a performance of his orchestral tone poem City Noir, plus Respighi's Fountains of Rome and Ravel's G major piano concerto, with Jeremy Denk as soloist. Tickets: $10 to $85.

We wrote admiringly of the Boston Early Music Festival's recording of Charpentier's hunting pastoral Actéon. That production's excellent lead, tenor Aaron Sheehan, heads up a semi-staged performance of the work by Opera Lafayette (May 1 and 2) in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Tickets: $55 to $70.

Color me surprised that Pomerium, the early music ensemble founded by Alexander Blachly is still around, but they celebrated their 40th anniversary this season. (Someone at Archiv and at Old Hall Recordings needs to put me on their CD publicity list.) They will perform a program of English Catholic polyphony from the reign of Mary Tudor at the Phillips Collection (May 5, 4 pm). Tickets: $20.

Pro Musica Hebraica is hosting the Apollo Ensemble, which will perform some of the Jewish Baroque music restored from historical sources in the Ets-Chaim Library in Amsterdam. The program in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (May 13, 7:30 pm) will feature Boi b'Shalom by Lidarti, Le-el Nora by Mani, and Kol Haneshama by an anonymous composer, plus music by Salomon Rossi, Marco Uccellini, and Giacobo Basevi Cervetto. Tickets: $38.

We always recommend the visits by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and their upcoming concert, hosted by Washington Performing Arts Society at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (May 1, 8 pm), is the first under their new music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He will conduct Bruckner's seventh symphony and Korngold's violin concerto, with Hilary Hahn as soloist. Tickets: $35 to $105.

Cellist David Finckel is leaving the Emerson Quartet at the end of this season. Hear him one last time on the Emerson String Quartet series next month (May 11, 6 pm) at the National Museum of Natural History. The concert, already apparently sold out, includes quartets by Haydn and Bartók, plus the gorgeous Schubert C major quintet, with Paul Watkins on the second cello part. Tickets: $67.

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