From Adès to Zander, Boston to offer a cornucopia of musical riches this season

September 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm

By Keith Powers

Lynn Harrell will perform the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas's Cello Concerto March 14-16 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Christian Steiner

Violinists? How about Gil Shaham, Stefan Jackiw, Midori, Joshua Bell, Arabella Steinbacher, Vadim Repin, and Arturo Delmoni. Pianists? Try Evgeny Kissin, Lang Lang, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Daniil Trifonov, Cecile Licad, Simone Dinnerstein, Veronica Jochum, Chamber groups? Maybe Emerson, Pacifica, Claremont, Daedalus, Takacs, Chiara, or A Far Cry. Singers? We’ve got Hampson, Fleming, Mattila, Upshaw, Gunn—even Barbara Cook.

You get the idea. The 2012-13 music season in Boston is clogged with so many events that it’s guaranteed that at least once or twice you’ll have to choose between two things that “can’t be missed.”

The Celebrity Series ( unveils its Debut Series this year in Pickman Hall at Longy School of Music. Under executive director Gary Dunning, the series will feature artists making their first series appearance, and it starts with a bang: Opening night (Oct. 5) has rising keyboard star Daniil Trifonov, who will return later in November to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Other Debut Series concerts include Pacifica Quartet (Oct. 24), guitarist Milos Kardaglic (who already sold out his Feb. 13 date, and a second night has been added Feb. 14), and soprano Susanna Phillips with tenor Joseph Kaiser (May 1). On larger stages, the Celebrity Series brings Evgeny Kissin, James Galway, Renée Fleming and Susan Graham, Itzhak Perlman, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Midori to Symphony Hall. In the more intimate confines of Jordan Hall, the series presents the Takacs and Emerson quartets, Karita Mattila, Gil Shaham and Hilary Hahn, Jonathan Biss and Nathan Gunn.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra (, still lacking a music director, starts its second season in a row with a violinist doubling as conductor. Last season Anne-Sophie Mutter provided tasteful leadership and virtuosic soloing in the complete Mozart concertos. This opening night (Sept. 22) i an all-Beethoven evening with Itzhak Perlman performing the two Romances, and leading the BSO in the Seventh Symphony. Five conductors make multiple BSO appearances this year: Charles Dutoit (Oct. 18-23, Oct. 25-27, Jan. 24-26), Daniele Gatti (Jan. 17-19, Mar. 21-26, Mar. 28-30), Christoph von Dohnányi (Feb. 7-12, Feb. 14-16), Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos (Feb. 21-26, Feb. 28-Mar. 2, April 2), and Bernard Haitink (Apr. 25-30, May 2-4). Other distinguished guests include  Vladimir Jurowski (Oct. 11-13), Thomas Adès ((Nov. 15-17), Stéphane Denève (Nov. 29-Dec. 1), Alan Gilbert (Jan. 10-15), Andris Nelsons (Jan. 31-Feb. 5), Christoph Eschenbach (Mar. 14-16), and Oliver Knussen (April 12-13). 

World premieres are in short supply this BSO season with just one slated, Augusta Read Thomas’s Cello Concerto (March 14-16) with soloist Lynn Harrell. Newer works by Knussen, Adès, Dutilleux and Saariaho fill some of that gap. Major concert-length presentations include Porgy and Bess (Sept. 27-29), the Verdi Requiem (Jan. 17-19) and Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 (March 28-30). Piano soloists with the BSO this season include Lang Lang, Radu Lupu, Kirill Gerstein, Stephen Hough, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Trifonov; violinists feature Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, Lisa Batiashvili, Baiba Skride and Pinchas Zukerman; and vocal soloists include Sandrine Piau, Matthew Polenzani, Anne Sophie von Otter, Michelle DeYoung, Claire Booth, Dawn Upshaw, and Laquita Mitchell.

The Daedalus Quartet will perform the complete string quartets of Fred Lerdahl October 18 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco.

The Gardner Museum ( founded a new concert hall last year, and a brand-new German Steinway this year. As usual, music director Scott Nickrenz brings in a top-flight series of musicians to explore both. To complement the Sunday afternoon series, Nickrenz has bolstered his Thursday evening Avant Gardner programs, with return visits from the Composer Series (with the Daedalus Quartet playing the three Fred Lerdahl quartets (Oct. 18), Callithumpian (Nov. 1, Dec. 20), and A Far Cry (Dec. 6). The Sunday afternoon concerts are also first rate with Paula Robison and Paavali Jumppanen (Sept. 16), piano recitals by Nareh Arghamanyan (Oct. 21) and Cecile Licad (Nov. 25), the Claremont Trio (Sept. 30), and the Belcea (Nov. 4) and Borromeo (Dec. 2) quartets.

Boston’ opera world was jolted last year by the sudden demise of the forward-thinking Opera Boston. The Boston Lyric ( remains as the sole major company in town, and its Madama Butterfly (Nov. 2-11) will certainly be a popular ticket. Early works get some stage time: Boston Early Music Festival ( brings Monteverdi’s Orfeo to Jordan Hall (Nov. 24-25), Boston Baroque ( presents Handel’s Partenope (Oct. 19, 20), and Helios Early Opera ( offers Telemann’s Pimpinone at the Good Life Bar Oct. 6.

The Handel and Haydn Society ( presents Handel’s great oratorio Jephtha (May 3, 5) under Harry Christophers’ direction at Symphony Hall. Perhaps the most important opera staging all season comes on May 12, when Emmanuel Music ( performs John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby at Jordan Hall. The BLO season picks up after the first of the year, with an Opera Annex staging of James MacMillan’s Clemency at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter Feb. 6-10, along with new productions of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte (March 15-24) and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (Apr. 26-May 5). Guerrilla Opera (, Boston Conservatory’s heady company, stages Adam Roberts’ Giver of Light in May. And the chamber opera company Intermezzo ( presents three one-act works, by Jake Heggie, Dominick Argento and Hugo Weisgall, Sept. 15 and 16, at the Modern Theatre.

John Cage’s centenary will be celebrated this year with multiple presentations. Ensemble 451 ( plays Sept. 9 at 4:33 p.m. (get it?) at the Somerville Armory Center; other concerts commemorating the aleatoric eclectic include Rodney Lister (piano) with singers at BU ( Sept. 14; Callithumpian at the Gardner (Nov. 1, Dec. 20) and at BC (Oct. 22); A Far Cry at the Gardner Dec. 6—actually “playing” 4:33; and Chameleon Arts Ensemble ( on Apr. 6.

The holiday season of course has its linchpin performances of Messiah by Boston Baroque (Dec. 7. 8 ) and H&H (Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2), but plenty of other offerings as well. Emmanuel sings Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Dec. 1; so does H&H Dec. 13 and 16. Boston Camerata’s ( “Hispanic Christmas” runs Dec. 15 through 22 at various venues; Coro Allegro ( sings 20th century holiday music, including Daniel Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata, Nov. 18; Musicians of the Old Post Road ( bring German Christmas music to Emmanuel Church Dec. 8; and Exsultemus ( sings “Celebremos el Nino” on Dec. 9. Boston Baroque sings New Year’s Eve and Day, offering Pergolesi’s antic La serva padrona.

Pianist Danill Trifonov will open the Celebrity Series' new concert lineup at the Longy School with a recital on October 5. The Russian pianist will also make his BSO debut on November 8-10.

Early music helps makes Boston an international city, and the Boston Early Music Festival ( is a leading reason why. This year’s visiting artists include Concerto Köln (Oct. 27), Hesperion XXI (Nov. 2), Tallis Scholars (Dec. 2), Venice Baroque Orchestra (Feb. 8 ) and Stile Antico (April 5). H&H’s composer-driven season fills out with period performances of Bach (Oct. 12, 14), Mozart (Nov. 9, 11), Purcell (Jan. 25, 27), Haydn (Feb. 22, 24), Beethoven (Mar. 15, 17) and Vivaldi (Apr. 5, 7). Martin Pearlman leads Boston Baroque’s interesting season, culminating in Haydn’ Lord Nelson Mass Apr. 19 and 20. Cambridge Society for Early Music ( tours the Boston area with French music (Sept. 8-12), Haydn quartets (Jan. 26-30), and Tudor English songs (Apr. 12-16).

A trio of new music ensembles have invigorated artistic life in the past few seasons. At Boston Conservatory, both Ludovico Ensemble (, opening Oct. 10) and Juventas (, playing Hyla and Vores Sept. 21 and 22) present distinct ways of looking at contemporary repertory. New Gallery ( juxtaposes the photographs of Emma Snow and works by Curtis Hughes, Don Crockett, and Aaron Trant when its season opens at the Community Music Center Nov. 15. And with a seasoned take on ink-wet composition, Richard Pittman’s cerebral Boston Musica Viva ( begins its 44th season with its Rapido composition competition on Sept. 28.

There are several one-off events of note this fall. The annual gala of the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation (; Nov. 12 at Symphony Hall) has Simone Dinnerstein performing a world premiere by Nico Muhly, and Dawn Upshaw singing with Gilbert Kalish accompanying. Violinist and pedagogue Roman Totenberg will be remembered by his colleagues and friends at BU on Oct. 13. And Veronica Jochum gives a rare piano recital Sept. 23 at BC.

The BSO isn’t the only orchestra in town. Benjamin Zander’s Boston Philharmonic ( has two young soloists this season, violinist Stefan Jackiw (Prokofiev 2, Oct. 25-28) and pianist George Li (Rachmaninov 2, Nov. 15-18); after that, Zander climbs two summits: Mahler 6 (Feb. 21-24) and Beethoven’s Ninth (Apr. 19, at Symphony Hall). The Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra ( has Arturo Delmoni soloing the Beethoven violin concerto Sept. 9, and brings Jonathan McPhee in to conduct Oct. 14. The Discovery Ensemble ( opens its season Oct. 21 with concertmaster Joshua Weilerstein soloing, and plays Bartok and Salonen on Dec. 2. Boston Modern Orchestra Project ( continues its solid work on new repertory with four concerts, beginning Nov. 10, and on the conservatory side, the BU Symphony Orchestra plays Yehudi Wyner’s horn concerto (Eric Ruske) on Oct. 23 at Symphony Hall.

Apart from the Gardner, the chamber season includes a continuation of the Emmanuel Music Beethoven series (Sept. 30, Oct. 14); Chameleon with half a dozen cage-rattling concerts beginning Oct. 6; Radius Ensemble (, also opening Oct. 6, at Longy; Boston Chamber Music Society ( beginning its 30th season Oct. 14; the illuminating Piano Masters series at Boston Conservatory ( beginning again Oct. 2 with Jorge Luis Prats, and continuing the first Tuesday of each month; and the Muir String Quartet appearing at BU on Oct. 9.

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