A festive month of music, with The Emerson Quartet, A Far Cry, Tallis Scholars, and the Borromeo Quartet among the standout performers.
By Jonathan Blumhofer and Susan Miron.
Handel’s Messiah. Presented by the Handel and Haydn Society, November 30 through December 2.
For some, there can’t be too many Messiah performances each holiday season. I’m not one of those, but you really can’t go wrong with HHS and their annual performances of Handel’s seminal oratorio.
Discovery Ensemble/Courtney Lewis. December 2.
One of the country’s best chamber orchestras presents its second program of the season, this one built around Esa-Pekka Salonen’s beguiling Five Images after Sappho. Music by Bartók and Beethoven appears on either side of it.
New England Conservatory Philharmonia/David Loebel. December 5.
The NEC Philharmonia presents a complete performance Ives’s rarely played Holidays Symphony. Also on the program is Sibelius’s progressive Symphony no. 7.
A Far Cry. At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, December 6 and 9.
On its first program, Boston’s other terrific chamber ensemble continues its yearlong celebration of John Cage’s centenary with some perhaps unexpected guests (the delightfully incongruous pairing of Alfred Schnittke and Haydn). The second concert features music for strings by Vivaldi, Piazzolla, Bartók, and Sir William Walton.
New England Philharmonic/Richard Pittman. December 9.
The NE Phil presents their annual Family Concert, this year featuring pieces by Revueltas and Copland. They are jointed by the PALS Children’s Chorus and 12-year-old violinist Ilana Zaks (who is performing Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy).
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Handel and Haydn Society. December 13 and 16.
HHS’s second program of the month features three cantatas from Bach’s oratorio.
Part 3 of the “Celebrating John Cage” series. Presented by the Callithumpian Consort. At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, December 20.
If you’ve somehow missed this year’s commemoration of the 100th birthday of America’s truest musical maverick, here is perhaps the last opportunity left to jump on the bandwagon.
Gala New Year’s Eve concert. Presented by Boston Baroque. December 31.
Boston Baroque’s annual tradition this year focuses its attention on Pergolesi’s comic gem La serva padrona. David Kravitz, Courtney Huffman, and Remo Airaldi star.
Chamber Music/ Early Music
Wednesday Concert Series. At the Church of St. John Evangelist, 35 Bowdoin Street, Boston, MA, every Wednesday, 5:30 p.m, free.
December 5: Sweet Hot Trio, featuring Alexandre Abdoulaev (piano), Eric Garibaldi (guitar), and Brian Race (bass), with guest vocalist Danny Hayward, will present an evening of jazz.
December 12: Daria Janssen (cello) and Paul jacobs (piano), with guest cellist Nick Dinnerstein, will perform works by Handel, Prokofiev, and Scriabin.
December 19: Klaritas Ensemble will perform works by Foss, Franck, and Stravinsky.
December 26: Baekyu Kim (piano) will perform the music of Messiaen.
Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Presented by Emmanuel Music, December 1.
Emmanuel Music presents Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, with Music Director Ryan Turner conducting. A preconcert talk with John Harbison begins at 6:30 p.m.
Borromeo Quartet. December 2.
The excellent Borromeo Quartet performs music of Dvorak with violist Roger Tapping, who will join the Julliard Quartet next year.
Emerson Quartet. Presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston. December 2.
The Emerson Quartet, one of the world’s greatest string quartets, appears on the Celebrity Series of Boston for the last time with their longtime cellist, the extraordinary David Finckel. Quartets by Schumann, Brahms, and Dvorak are on the program.
“Love is Better than Wine.” Presented by the Tallis Scholars. December 2.
The beloved vocal ensemble Tallis Scholars, under the direction of Peter Phillips, make their annual visit under the auspices of The Boston Early Music Festival. “Love is Better than Wine” features works by Praetorius, Pärt, Vivanco, and Lassus.
First Monday Series. Presented by New England Conservatory. December 3.
New England Conservatory’s popular First Monday series continues with Leclair’s Sonata for two violins, Bartók’s Concerto for two pianos and percussion, and Franck’s Quintet in F Minor. Free.
Jonathan Bass. Presented by the Piano Masters Series. At Boston Conservatory, December 4.
Pianist Jonathan Bass performs in the Piano Masters Series at the Boston Conservatory, where he is on the faculty. The really interesting musical line-up includes Bach’s Partita No. 6, Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse, Janàcek rarely-heard “On an Overgrown Path,” Chopin’s Sonata No. 3 in b minor, and El Salon Mexico by Copland/Bernstein.
Natasha Brofsky. Presented by Redeemer Chamber Series. December 9.
Natasha Brofsky gives a cello recital (with Dina Vainshtein, piano) as part of the Redeemer Chamber Series. The program is terrific: Beethoven’s Seven Variations on a Theme from The Magic Flute for Cello and Piano; Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 n G Major, BWV 1007; Chopin’s Sonata in G minor Op 65 for Cello and Piano.
Ashmont Hill Chamber Music. December 9.
Ashmont Hill Chamber Music presents a free concert that includes Ludwig van Beethoven’s Trio in D, Op. 70 #1 “Ghost,” Erwin Schulhoff’s Duo for violin and cello, Jean Sibelius’s Rondino & Romance for violin and piano, and Robert Schumann’s Five Pieces in Folk Style, Op. 102, for cello and piano.
Stephan Jackiw and Gilles Vonsattle. At Roxbury Latin School, West Roxbury, MA, December 11.
The superb violinist Stephan Jackiw and pianist Gilles Vonsattle perform at Roxbury Latin School.
Musica Sacra. December 15.
Musica Sacra, a wonderful choral group under artistic director Mary Beekman, performs the Christmas section of Handel’s Messiah with soloists from Exultemus. This will be followed by the Hallelujah Chorus and other festive carols for a collective sing-along.
Gloria: A Renaissance Christmas pageant. Presented by Capella Clausura. December 15 and 16.
Cappella Clausura presents Gloria: A Renaissance Christmas pageant, an unusual celebration that gathers together “giant puppets, adult and child dancers, beautiful costumes, and music written mostly by cloistered women.”
“Beginnings and Endings.” Presented by Boston Chamber Music Society. December 16.
Boston Chamber Music Society’s MIT Series presents “Beginnings and Endings,” a program of music that includes Beethoven’s Clarinet Trio in B-flat major, Op 11, Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in F major, Op. 24, “Spring” and Messiaen’s wonderful Quatuor pour la fin du temps.
The Boston Camerata . December 19.
The Boston Camerata, led by Joel Cohen, teams up with the women’s choir “Les Fleurs des Caraibes” to present holiday music from Spanish-speaking parts of the world.
Blue Heron Christmas music concert. Performed by Blue Heron. December 21 and 22.
Blue Heron, the outstanding a capella group under Music Director Scott Metcalfe, performs an evening of Christmas music from fifteenth-century France and Burgundy. The composers include Du Fay, Josquin, Obrecht, Brumel, and others.