Fall Preview: NYC's 20 Most Anticipated Classical Performances

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Fall is always the most exciting time to be a classical music fan in New York City. Here's a guide to everything you need to know about the big fall concerts this year.


New York Philharmonic's Film Week
September 17-21 at Avery Fisher Hall

The Philharmonic leads into fall with a weeklong focus on film scores, a series conceived by Alec Baldwin, the orchestra's radio host, board member and foe of aggressive paparazzi. Up first are two nights of scores from Alfred Hitchcock movies, including Bernard Herrmann’s pioneering soundtracks to "North by Northwest" and "Vertigo." Later in the week comes a screening of "2001: A Space Odyssey,"  performed live as the entire film is screened in Avery Fisher Hall.


Anna Nicole at New York City Opera
September 17-28 at
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House

New York City Opera will open its season with the US premiere of Marc-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole, based on the story of the Playboy bunny and self-made media celebrity who died of a drug overdose. City Opera shares the production credits with BAM, and the cast includes both Broadway and opera singers. Sarah Joy Miller sings the title role. Librettist Richard Thomas, whose credits include Jerry Springer: The Opera, directs.


New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Opening Night
27-29 September at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark; State Theater, New Brunswick

The New Jersey Symphony is enlisting local talent throughout its 2013-14 season, starting with a commissioned piece, Stones and Streams by New Jersey jazz pianist Geri Allen. Newark church choirs and the vocal ensemble Afro Blue join the orchestra to sing spirituals between movements of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9. Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the program also includes Duke Ellington’s Three Black Kings.


John Zorn at the Met Museum
September 28 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The iconoclastic composer and saxophonist John Zorn is being feted around New York this fall in honor of his 60th birthday on Sept. 2. The Met Museum devotes a day to his work, featuring 11 performances in 11 different rooms. Events start with a fanfare for six trumpets and continue with Zorn improvising on the museum’s pipe organ.


Nicholas McGegan conducts the Juilliard Orchestra
September 28 at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater

Nicholas McGegan, music director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, opens the fall season at Juilliard with Britten’s An American Overture celebrating the Britten centenary; Ibert’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 37 (soloist TBA); and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Op. 36. McGegan will return at several points during the fall season.


Ethel’s 'Documerica'
October 2-5 at BAM Harvey Theater

In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency hired freelance photographers to capture thousands of images of urban sprawl, deforestation and everyday life in America. Four decades later, the string quartet Ethel has developed an evening-length multimedia program, in which it performs in front of montage of the EPA images. Pieces by composer Mary Ellen Childs, jazz drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. and the members of the quartet, among others, will be performed.


'Cage Party Pieces'
October 17 at Miller Theater

"Cage Party Pieces" sprang from a game that John Cage and several composer friends played in the 1940's. One man wrote one bar of music plus two notes, folded the paper at the bar line and passed it to his fellow composer. He followed suit, using the trailing two notes as a point of departure. The ensemble Either/Or will try to rekindle this entertaining(?) pastime in an evening-length work made of short compositions by 125 different composers, from William Bolcom to David T. Little.


Kirill Gerstein plays Mussorgsky and Mehldau
October 20 at Le Poisson Rouge

Pianist Kirill Gerstein studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music in Boston before making his way onto major classical concert stages. Now in his 30s, he still finds opportunities to swing along with consuming a steady diet of Russian repertoire. In this program he gives the local premiere of Brad Mehldau’s Variations on a Melancholy Theme after a jaunt through Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.


London Symphony Orchestra
October 20-21 at Avery Fisher Hall

The LSO arrives with two concerts featuring the unusual pairing of Mozart piano concertos with Shostakovich symphonies. On Oct. 20, Emmanuel Ax is the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, K.271 followed by Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4. The next evening features Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27, K.595, with Ax, followed by Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15. Leading from the podium is 84-year-old maestro Bernard Haitink.


Nico Muhly’s Two Boys
October 21 at the Metropolitan Opera

Two Boys, Nico Muhly’s opera about an online friendship gone horribly awry, makes its US debut in a production conducted by David Robertson and directed by Bartlett Sher. The story is based on actual events taken from the English tabloids in 2004 and caused a bit of a stir when it debuted at English National Opera in 2011.  Watch a video preview recorded at Le Poisson Rouge in May by Q2 Music.


New York Philharmonic with Leila Josefowicz
November 1, 2, 5 at Avery Fisher Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto – conceived as a kind of grand musical memoir and premiered during the composer's final weeks as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009 – gets its overdue New York debut. Leila Josefowicz again takes on the arduous solo part while Salonen conducts. Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5 complete the program.


Roomful of Teeth
November 4 at Le Poisson Rouge

New York composer Caroline Shaw won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Partita, an a cappella work written for Roomful of Teeth, a vocal octet of which she is a member. The award surprised some observers, not only because of Shaw’s relatively young age (she just turned 30), but also because no one had actually heard the piece yet.  Roomful of Teeth finally premieres the piece alongside works by Caleb Burhans, Brad Wells and William Brittelle.


Hagen Quartet: Beethoven Cycle
November 7-17 at the 92nd St. Y

Austria's Hagen Quartet has been playing Beethoven’s 16 string quartets throughout much of its 32-year history, and it’s now sharing the fruits of that accumulated experience. The quartet will present the full cycle over six concerts in 10 days, starting with three F minor quartets (Op. 18/1, Op. 135 and Op. 59/1) on 7 November. Each subsequent concert will offer a mix of early, middle and late works, many avoiding the usual combinations.


San Francisco Symphony; Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
November 13 & 14 at Carnegie Hall

When the San Francisco Symphony scrapped its East Coast tour last March amid a two-week strike, performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony were among the casualties. Now the orchestra is back on the road with the Ninth, presenting the epic piece in the second of two programs at Carnegie. The first concert features soloist Jeremy Denk in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 26 in C Major, plus music by Copland, Beethoven and Steven Mackey.


Tallis Scholars
November 16 at Alice Tully Hall

Lincoln Center’s annual White Light Festival of spiritual music brings the Tallis Scholars to town with a program matching English Renaissance music with modern works. Several short pieces by the English composers John Taverner and Thomas Tallis give way to Nico Muhly's Recordare, domine and Arvo Pärt’s ...which was the son of... The concert is part of the Scholars’ 40th anniversary tour.


Alarm Will Sound: All-Steve Reich Concert
November 16 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Alarm Will Sound is the ensemble in residence at the Met Museum this season, and for the second of four concerts it takes on a group specialty: the music of Steve Reich. The crack new-music ensemble presents Reich’s Clapping Music; Piano Counterpoint; City Life: Four Genesis Settings; New York Counterpoint; Radio Rewrite (New York Premiere)


Pacifica Quartet with Marc-André Hamelin
November 19 at Zankel Hall

The ambitious Pacifica Quartet may have an ideal collaborator in Marc-André Hamelin, a pianist known for his love of lesser known and really hard music. Together they unearth Leon Ornstein’s Piano Quintet, a work that veers from modernist bustle to lush post-Romanticism. The Pacifica follows with Beethoven’s Op. 130 Quartet, with the Grosse Fugue.


Calmus Ensemble Leipzig
December 8 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Formed in 1999 by four men and a woman, the a cappella group Calmus Ensemble Leipzig is known for the breadth of its repertoire extending from Gregorian chants to Machaut, Palestrina and Bach to Verdi and contemporary pop music. The group makes its Met Museum debut with a holiday program centered around the music of J.S. Bach.


Anne-Sophie Mutter, Violin
Lambert Orkis, Piano
December 14 at Carnegie Hall

Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis made their Carnegie debut together in 1987. Twenty-years and many strapless gowns later, the violinist and pianist are back with a recital program featuring a judicious mix of standard and modern repertoire. Saint-Saens and Schubert will be contrasted with the Polish modernists Penderecki and Lutoslawski, plus a premiere of the Violin Sonata No. 2 by Andre Previn.


Steven Beck plays Bach's Goldberg Variations
December 24 at Bargemusic

Continuing a longstanding tradition, Bargemusic, the floating concert hall near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, devotes Christmas Eve to Bach's Goldberg Variations. The soloist is the fine pianist Steven Beck. Along with Bach, the evening includes sparkling cider, cookies and chocolate.

Photos: John Zorn (David Garland); Leila Josefowicz (Deborah O'Grady)