Classical Music Sampler: December 2011

It may be the holiday season, but there are a surprisingly large amount of really great concerts this month, some of which are free.

By Susan Miron.

Pianist Sergy Schepkin -- his interpretation of Bach

Lots going on this month: if you can only go to two concerts, I would recommend Sergey Schepkin’s “Goldberg” Variations on December 8th and the Food for Music concert on the 19th. (Stile Antiquo is also always worth hearing.)

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and Harbison’s Symphony No. 5. Presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall, Boston, MA., December 1 at 8 p.m., December 2 at 1:30 p.m., and December 3 at 8 p. m. Jirí Blohlávek conducts; Jonathan Biss performs on the piano with the superb Gerald Finley, baritone, and Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano, warbling in Harbison’s Symphony No. 5.

Handel Messiah. Presented by the Handel and Haydn Society at Symphony Hall, Boston, MA, December 2 at 7:30 p.m., December 3 at 3 p.m., and December 4 at 3 p.m. Harry Christophers conducts.

First Monday. Presented by New England Conservatory at Jordan Hall, Boston, MA, December 5, 8 p.m. The performance is free; the lineup includes Bach’s Brandenberg Concerto No. 6, Brahms Piano Trio in A minor, and Mahler’s Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

Pianist Michael Lewin. At Seully Hall, Boston Conservatory, Boston, MA, December 6, 8 p.m. This fascinating program includes two composers’ arrangements of Bach, three great Lizst pieces, and études by Chopin, Liszt, and Gottschalk.

Mahler Unleashed. Presented by the New England Conservatory at Jordan Hall, Boston, MA, on December 7, 8 p.m. David Loebel conducts one of the final free “Mahler Unleashed” concerts—the program includes the Adagio from Mahler Symphony No. 10, Strauss’s Rosenkavalier Suite, and Schoenberg’s Five Pieces, Op. 16.

Pianist Michael Lewin

Pianist Sergey Schepkin. At Boston University’s Tsai Performance Center, Boston, MA, on December 8, 8 p.m, Free. A brilliant Bach pianist, Schepkin plays the “Goldberg” Variations, which he has recorded twice. He’s also playing Brahms 6 pieces from Op. 118—his new CD of Brahms Intermezzi has just been released. If you are intrigued by the “Goldberg” Variations, Schepkin’s interpretation is something you must hear.

Exsultemus. At the First Lutheran Church, Boston, MA, December 9, 8 p.m. The excellent a capella group Exsultemus performs “magnificent motets and joyous villanciscos” in a program of Renaissance music from Spain, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, and music of Tomás Luis de Victoria on the 400th anniversary of his death.

Boston Chamber Music Society. At Kresge Auditorium, MIT, Cambridge, MA, December 11, 4 p.m. This is a terrific program: Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony, arr. by Anton Webern, Beethoven’s Variations for Cello and Piano, and “Hail the Conqu’ring Hero Comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus, Bach’s Trio Sonata from The Musical Offering, and the Brahms Clarinet Trio in A minor.

Blue Heron. At the First Church Congregational, 11 Garden St. Cambridge, MA, December 16 and 17, 8 p.m. A program billed as “Christmas in Medieval England”—a gathering of carols, plainchants, and motets from 15th-century Britain.

Scott Metcalfe and the Blue Heron Renaissance Choir

Stile Antiquo. Presented by the Boston Early Music Festival at St. Paul’s Church, 29 Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA, December 17, 8 p.m. A superb, young, British a capella group presents Tudor music for Christmas and Advent.

Music for Food. At Brown Hall, NEC, Boston, MA, December 19, 8 p.m. Dazzling musicians, great music. Now in its second season with the great violist Kim Kashkashian at the helm. Bartók and a Brahms Quintet and more. All proceeds to benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank, which deeply appreciates the support. Donate cash or a check to The Greater Boston Food Bank (whose needs are up by 23% this year) and/or canned goods.

A Medieval Christmas. Presented by The Boston Camerata at the First Church Congregational, 11 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA, December 20, 8 p.m. Anne Azéma directs.

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