It shouldn’t be surprising at this point, given South Florida’s deep connection to the Northeast, and New York City in particular, but this area can boast a season of classical music as rich as most other cities in the country, particularly in the first months of the year, when everyone likes to come to Florida to escape winter.
Here’s a monthly look at what you can look forward to in another packed season of concerts:
The classical season proper here really gets started with concerts by the Lynn Philharmonia in September, but October is the first month other groups start to weigh in.
The great Miami-based concert choir Seraphic Fire, which has added regular Boca Raton performances this season at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, opens its 17th season with special guests the American Brass Quintet in music primarily from Renaissance Spain (Oct. 18); the Palm Beach Symphony makes its first foray with a children’s concert at the Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens featuring Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf (Oct. 20).
Paul Cienniwa’s monthly music series at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Delray Beach opens with the Trillium Piano Trio of Jupiter (Oct. 21) in music by Bernstein, Beethoven and Schumann, and for its weekend concerts Oct. 27 and 28, the Lynn Philharmonia features violinist Carol Cole in Mozart’s Fourth Violin Concerto; a new Lynn student composition is on the program along with the Saint-Saëns Third Symphony (Organ). Also that weekend, the Master Chorale of South Florida pays tribute to the centenary of Leonard Bernstein with his Chichester Psalms as as well as excerpts from Candide and Mass (Oct. 28, St. Andrew’s School, Boca Raton).
Miami-Dade and Broward counties: In Miami Beach, the New World Symphony, now in its 31st year of training orchestral musicians, opens its season Oct. 20 and 21 with founder Michael Tilson Thomas leading Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero in Mozart’s Concerto No. 14, with Brahms’s Fourth Symphony and Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra rounding out the program. Also, the brilliant Nu Deco Ensemble, led by Jacomo Bairos, welcomes jazz organist Cory Henry to the first weekend of its concerts at the Light Box in Miami’s Wynwood district, with music by Bernstein, Marsalis, Ellington and Curtis Mayfield (Oct. 11-13). And at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, the remarkable Russian conductor Valery Gergiev brings the Mariinsky Orchestra and pianist Alexander Toradze for Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, and operatic selections from members of the Atkins Young Artists Program (Oct. 30).
Abram Kreeger’s vital Piano Lovers series on Saturday afternoons at the Boca Steinway Gallery features the Taiwanese-born Ching-Yun Hu, winner of the 2008 Rubinstein Competition, in music of Ravel, Granados, Alkan and Kapustin (Nov. 10). That same weekend, the Lynn Philharmonia’s concerto competition concerts, featuring student winners (Nov. 10-11), are followed by the Jacksonville Symphony at the Kravis Center with the splendid American organist Cameron Carpenter in the Poulenc Organ Concerto (Nov. 12).
Michael Finn’s excellent Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach kicks off its season at The Breakers with the terrific American soprano Julia Bullock and pianist John Arida in a recital of songs by Schubert, Barber and Fauré, along with popular songs by the great 20th-century black American divas Nina Simone, Alberta Hunter and Billie Holiday. (Nov. 19)
Miami-Dade and Broward: Pianist Emmanuel Ax does the Beethoven First with MTT and the New World on a program that includes Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony (Nov. 3), and on Nov. 16-17, tenor Matthew Polenzani sings Vaughan Williams’s On Wenlock Edge for Roberto Abbado, who also leads the Seventh Symphony of Beethoven.
Another area orchestra, the Wilton Manors-based South Florida Symphony, plays Boca’s Spanish River Worship Center to open the month with violinist Angelo Xiang Yu in the Beethoven Violin Concerto and Dvorak’s New World Symphony (Dec. 1), while on the next day, two other orchestras open their seasons: the Palm Beach Symphony, joined by the Master Chorale of South Florida, plays an electic program of pieces by Kodaly (Dances of Galanta), Ginastera, Wolf-Ferrari and others, at the Kravis Center; at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, The Symphonia welcomes guest conductor Gerard Schwarz and Canadian pianist Marika Bournaki in music of Mozart (Piano Concerto No. 20), along with his Linz Symphony and pieces by American composers Walter Piston and Elliott Carter (Dec. 2).
Back at the Kravis, guitarist Jordan Dodson makes his recital debut at the Rinker (Dec. 3), and the outstanding American pianist Jeremy Denk plays variations by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bizet and John Adams for his Dreyfoos Hall recital (Dec. 6). That same day, Seraphic Fire presents the first of its annual Christmas programs at St. Gregory’s, and three days later, New York Polyphony, a Kings Singers-style quartet, opens the classical season at Palm Beach’s Society of the Four Arts (Dec. 9).
And it wouldn’t be the Christmas season without George Frideric Handel’s Easter piece, Messiah (the “Christmas portion” thereof, anyway), which gets a reading by FAU choral students and the Delray Beach Chorale at FAU (Dec. 9), and two readings by the Masterworks Chorus of the Palm Beaches, once at the Benjamin School (Dec. 14) and again at its usual venue, the Royal Poinciana Chapel in Palm Beach (Dec. 16). Russian-American pianist Asiya Korepanova celebrates Beethoven’s 248th birthday with his Hammerklavier Sonata, among other pieces, at Piano Lovers (Dec. 16), and the Philadelphia Orchestra Brass Quintet offers music by Gabrieli, Gershwin and Previn at Holy Trinity Episcopal in West Palm Beach for the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach (Dec. 18).
And you can see out the old year with St. Paul’s Cienniwa, who will perform the Goldberg Variations of J.S. Bach on a two-manual harpsichord, followed by a New Year’s sparkling toast (Dec. 31).
Miami-Dade and Broward: The expert German violinist Augustin Hadelich is the soloist Dec. 1-2 with the New World, led by Peter Oundjian of the Toronto Symphony, in the increasingly performed Britten Violin Concerto; Brahms’s Second Symphony is also on the concert. James Brooks-Bruzzese’s Symphony of the Americas presents its annual holiday program at the Broward Center, this time with accompanying video (Dec. 4, matinee Dec. 9), and on Dec. 14, the New World presents its own holiday concert. Nu Deco is at the Knight Concert Hall the next day for a concert of music by Bernstein and Aretha Franklin; Michelle Williams and BJ The Chicago Kid are the special guests.
The first weekend of the New Year opens with an explosion of orchestras, as the season enters its peak of activity. No fewer than three orchestras present concerts on Jan. 6: The National Symphony Orchestra of Romania at the Kravis, with cellist Andrei Ionita in the Dvorak concerto led by the fine conductor Cristian Macelaru; Spanish pianist Javier Perianes is the soloist in the Mozart Concerto No. 27 on a program from the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at the Four Arts; and Philadelphia Orchestra assistant conductor Kesho Watanabe, joined by concertmaster David Kim, leads the Symphonia Boca Raton in music of Bach, Schubert, Massenet and Tchaikovsky at St. Andrew’s (Jan. 6).
The Flagler Museum in Palm Beach begins its Tuesday night series of chamber music concerts with the Netherlands’ Delphi Trio, a piano trio that will play music by Haydn, Schubert and Smetana (Jan. 8). Minnesota’s all-male vocal octet Cantus, which last appeared in Palm Beach County more than a decade ago, comes to the Four Arts with a mix of Beethoven and Dave Matthews (Jan. 9), followed the next day by South Korean-born violinist SooBeen Lee as soloist with the Palm Beach Symphony in the Brahms Violin Concerto at the Benjamin School and again at St. Andrew’s in Boca (Jan. 10, Jan. 12).
Also in town that day is the most eminent of all American string quartets, the Emerson String Quartet, at Holy Trinity Episcopal in a marvelous French rarity, the Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet of Ernest Chausson; the Emerson is joined by violinist Paul Huang and pianist Gilles Vonsattel; the Emerson follows that concert with master classes at Lynn University and a concert there two days later (Jan. 12). The standout Chicago-based Pacifica Quartet is joined at the Four Arts by the superlative American guitarist Sharon Isbin for music by Puccini, Vivaldi and Boccherini (Jan. 13); three days later, the Four Arts welcomes the genre-bending virtuoso piano duo of Anderson and Roe back to Palm Beach County (Jan. 16).
Yet another local symphonic ensemble, the Atlantic Classical Orchestra of Fort Pierce, which gives concerts in Vero Beach, Stuart and at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens, hosts pianist Philippe Bianconi in the Grieg Piano Concerto; conductor David Amado has also programmed the Beethoven Third Symphony and American composer Robert Paterson’s Dark Mountains (Jan. 16). Guest conductor Anthony Trecek-King leads Seraphic Fire in a concert of music from the African-American spiritual tradition (Jan. 17, St. Gregory’s); soprano Danielle Pastin joins the brilliant Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled and his Peabody Peled Cello Gang in the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5 at the Four Arts (Jan. 20), then gives a solo recital on the same stage that will include a song cycle by American composer Libby Larsen about the six wives of England’s King Henry VIII (Jan. 23).
The cello-piano Mesa-Yakushev Duo comes to the Flagler with music by Beethoven, Schumann and the beautiful Cello Sonata of Rachmaninov (Jan. 22), while the rising young Texas organist Alcee Chriss III presents a recital at the Kravis’s Rinker Playhouse (Jan. 23). Another good chamber music series, the Classical Café series on Wednesday afternoons at the Duncan Theatre’s black-box Stage West in Lake Worth, gets underway that day with the Maxwell Quartet, a foursome of Scotsmen.
At the Four Arts, the young Australian violinist Ray Chen, accompanied by pianist Riko Higuma, presents music by Poulenc, Bach, Grieg and Christoph Koncz (Jan. 27), and that same weekend the Lynn Philharmonia, under conservatory dean Jon Roberston, leads hornist Gregory Miller in a concerto by Anthony DiLorenzo; Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is also on the program (Jan. 26-27).
The month is rounded out with a visit to the Kravis Center from China’s Shanghai Opera Symphony Orchestra, which presents two big Russian favorites, the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 (with soloist Song Siheng) and the Rachmaninov Second Symphony; conductor Zhang Chengjie leads the proceedings (Jan. 28). And one of the finest young string quartets working today, the Dover Quartet, joins forces with an elder statesman of the piano, Peter Serkin, for a concert at the Four Arts (Jan. 30).
Miami-Dade and Broward: The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and pianist Javier Perianes play the Arsht Center on Jan. 5, a day before coming to Palm Beach County; violinist Pinchas Zukerman makes one of his annual visits to South Florida on Jan. 12, appearing with the New World in the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1; conductor James Conlon has also programmed the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra. The Symphony of the Americas enlists artist Nicholas Bardonnay for photochoreographed images to familiar classics and a new piece by Eduardo Magallanes (Jan. 22). The Cleveland Orchestra, in a severely truncated residency over years past brings a blockbuster for the first of its two Miami weekends at the Knight Concert Hall as conductor Franz Welser-Möst leads the orchestra, chorus and soloists Joelle Harvey and Sasha Cooke in the Mahler Second Symphony (Jan. 25-26).
Concert schedules get even more crowded this month, starting with a concert by the Fine Arts Quartet at Lynn (Feb. 2), and the eminent Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky in recital at the Four Arts (Feb. 3). Also on Feb. 3, the Boca Symphonia brings conductor Michael Stern to town with violinist Sharon Roffman for Bruce Adolphe’s I Will Not Be Silent, a concerto inspired by the work of Rabbi Joachim Prinz; Beethoven’s Third is also on the program.
Canada’s Gryphon Trio plays Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms at the Flagler (Feb. 5); that same day conductor Zubin Mehta, on his farewell tour, brings his Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra to the Kravis in Schubert’s Third and Bruckner’s Seventh (on Feb. 6, they’re at Miami’s Arsht Center). Italian pianist Julian Gargiulo is in recital the next day at the Duncan (Feb. 6), and the Brown-Urioste-Canellakis Trio comes to Holy Trinity the next day with music by Fauré, Haydn, Chausson and its own pianist, Michael Brown (Feb. 7). In some ways, the most celebrated American classical composer today is the film eminence John Williams, and The Boston Pops under Keith Lockhart devotes two concerts to his music Feb. 9 at the Kravis (the program is repeated the next day at the Broward Center).
The 23-year-old Chinese-American piano sensation George Li is the soloist in the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto on a program at the Kravis devoted to that composer by the Russian National Orchestra (Feb. 10); former Emerson Quartet cellist David Finckel and his pianist wife Wu Han, who also direct the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, arrive for a weeklong residency at the Four Arts (Feb. 10-17), which will include three concerts featuring special guests.
Russian baritone Anton Belov presents Schumann’s Dichterliebe and a host of night-themed art songs at St. Paul’s with pianist Milana Strezeva, also on Feb. 10. Not to be left out that day is the Norton Museum of Art, which launches a concert series at the reopened museum with a program of music by David Lang.
The excellent young Kentucky-born violinist Tessa Lark solos with the Atlantic Classical Orchestra at the Eissey in the Sibelius Violin Concerto (Feb. 13); that same day, Seraphic Fire comes to Boca with a program devoted to music by Vivaldi for women’s voices. The young St. Louis born pianist Dominic Cheli, a protégé of Andre-Michel Schub, makes his Florida recital debut at the Rinker Playhouse on Feb. 19, while that same night at the Flagler, the Michigan-based Akropolis Reed Quintet performs a mostly American program of works by Weill, Muhly, Gershwin and David Biedenbender.
Next up is the British vocal octet Voces8 at the Four Arts (Feb. 20), then the piano duo of Orion Weiss and Shai Wosner at the newly reopened Norton Museum of Art in pieces by Schubert, Brahms and David Lang (Feb. 21); and at the Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, the Palm Beach Symphony offers Brahms’s Serenade No. 2 and the Schubert Ninth (Feb. 22); pianist Natasha Paremski solos in the Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody that same day with the South Florida Symphony at the Spanish River Worship Center; a neglected masterwork, Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, is also on the program.
Lynn Philharmonia conductor Guillermo Figueroa is a passionate devotee of the music of French composer Hector Berlioz, and his Philharmonia joins forces with the Master Chorale of South Florida for the composer’s epic Te Deum on Feb. 23 and 24 at Lynn. The Berlin Philharmonic Woodwind Quintet visits the Four Arts that weekend (Feb. 24), soon to be followed by one of the greatest U.S. orchestras, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which returns to the Kravis with Riccardo Muti in an all-Beethoven program featuring the Fifth and Seventh symphonies (Feb. 26; the next day at the Arsht Center in Miami, the CSO plays Tchaikovsky’s Fifth and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade). And speaking of The Voice, a touring ensemble of vocal students from Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute performs Feb. 27 at the Four Arts.
Miami-Dade and Broward: The soprano, conductor and contemporary opera specialist Barbara Hannigan offers a tour de force with the Cleveland Orchestra to start off the month, singing excerpts from Berg’s Lulu, Sibelius’s Luonnotar and Gershwin’s Girl Crazy while also leading the orchestra in the Haydn Symphony No. 86 (Feb. 1-2). The Colombian-Canadian singer Tei Shi joins Nu Deco on a program of music by Nina Simone, Anna Meredith and the two winners of the orchestra’s Nu Works call for scores (Feb. 14-16). Matthias Pintscher leads his own Violin Concerto with soloist Renaud Capuçon in a New World program also featuring music by Ligeti and Olga Neuwirth (Feb. 16); visual artist Duaiv will paint a work live on stage for the Symphony of the Americas, which also features clarinetist Dmitri Ashkenazy (Feb. 19). Later that month MTT welcomes violinist Christian Tetzlaff to the New World Center for Ligeti’s Violin Concerto; Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony is also on the program (Feb. 23-24). Also on Feb. 23, pianist Jeremy Denk plays the Mozart Concerto No. 12 with London’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields at the Arsht Center in Miami.
Violinist Itzhak Perlman, who has played South Florida every season for decades, schedules a recital with longtime accompanist Rohan De Silva at the Kravis (March 3; four days later, he plays Miami’s Arsht Center), and the Flagler series wraps its season with the Thalea String Quartet, now in residence at the University of Texas, in music by Haydn, Beethoven and Mendelssohn (March 5). The brilliant composer and pianist Conrad Tao is in recital March 10 at the Norton, and in what may be the most interesting visit by a guest orchestra, the Brussels Philharmonic, led by the excellent conductor Stephane Denève, is joined by Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider for the Bruch Concerto No. 1, but two of the other pieces – contemporary French composer Guillaume Connesson’s Flammenschrift and Roussel’s Bacchus et Ariane – make this March 11 event at the Kravis special (the orchestra plays the Broward Center on March 13 with Znaider in the Beethoven Concerto).
Veteran clarinetist Richard Stoltzman is joined by pianist David Deveau and young soprano Sarah Shafer at the Four Arts on March 13, and at the Eissey that same night flamenco dancer Eva Conti and mezzo-soprano Tara Curtis join the Atlantic Classical Orchestra for Falla’s El Amor Brujo. Russian pianist Svetlana Smolina is the soloist March 14 with the South Florida Symphony for the Tchaikovsky No. 1 at Spanish River, and three days later Germany’s Scharoun Ensemble, a woodwind octet from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, plays music of Mozart and Schubert at the Four Arts (March 17). The Palm Beach Symphony features the woodwinds in its March 18 concert at the Four Arts, with a rare concerto for four winds and orchestra by Mozart, and the three early Morning, Noon and Night symphonies of Haydn; the Juilliard-based Argus Quartet makes its Florida debut that night at the Rinker Playhouse.
The fine British cellist Natalie Clein plays an afternoon recital March 20 at the Duncan, and that night the Sinta Saxophone Quartet is at the Four Arts; soprano Jessica Rivera is there next with a concert of Spanish and Catalan songs dedicated to the memory of Victoria de los Angeles (March 24). Belfast’s legendary Sir James Galway brings his flute and impish concert manner to the Kravis on March 25, and fans of the great Cleveland-based Baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire have reason to rejoice March 27, when Jeannette Sorrell’s band finally makes it to Palm Beach County for a concert at the Four Arts.
A special memorial concert at the Duncan Theatre’s Stage West is scheduled that same day to honor Jan Winkler, a Palm Beach Gardens philanthropist and music devotee who gave, along with his wife Hermine Drezner, more than $1 million to Palm Beach State College for scholarships and to underwrite music programming. Winkler died earlier this year of cancer, and on the program will be pieces dedicated to or commissioned by him; the chief work on the concert is the Shostakovich Piano Quintet, and taking part will be violinists Yuki Numata Resnick and Yevgeny Kutik, violist Mary Ferrillo, cellist Ashley Bathgate and pianist David Kaplan.
Trios by Rachmaninov, Schumann and American composer Pierre Jalbert are on the program at the Norton Museum for an appearance by the young Sitkovetsky Trio (March 28), and the Four Arts wraps its classical season March 31 with the 90-year-old pianist Leon Fleisher, accompanied by his wife, Katherine Jacobsen, in duo-piano music; that same day the Symphonia Boca Raton closes its season with Alastair Willis leading a jazzy program featuring soloist Lidia Kaminska in the Concerto for Bandoneon (small accordion) by Argentina’s Astor Piazzolla.
Miami-Dade and Broward: Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan plays the Schumann Piano Concerto at the New World with Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska; music by Saariaho and Mendelssohn’s Third fill out the bill of fare (March 8-9). French pianist Hélène Grimaud joins conductor Mark Wigglesworth for the Ravel Piano Concerto at the New World on a concert also featuring Mahler’s First Symphony (March 16). Merrill Garbus’s quirky Tune-Yards ensemble joins the Nu Deco at the New World Center for music by Ricardo Romaneiro and a Sam Hyken suite of music by Police frontman Gordon Sumner, aka Sting. (March 29-30)
April (and May)
The season mostly comes to an end this month with the arrival of Easter, but it opens in sparkling style with a return appearance at the Kravis by the Buffalo Philharmonic and its conductor JoAnn Falletta, who welcomes pianist Fabio Bidini to the stage for the Brahms Second Piano Concerto (April 1). The final concert in the Classical Café series features the Goldstein-Peled-Fiterstein Trio (April 3); the Atlantic Classical Orchestra ends its season that night at the Eissey with cellist Julian Schwarz as soloist in the Shostakovich First Cello Concerto. Violinist Tomas Cotik, a former Miamian now living in Oregon, returns to South Florida with longtime concert partner Tao Lin in music by Mozart, Vivaldi and Piazzolla at the Norton (April 7). Leon Fleisher is the soloist April 12 on the last Palm Beach Symphony concert in the Piano Concerto No. 12 of Mozart; Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony also is on the program.
The last Lynn Philharmonia concert follows with mezzo Rebecca Robinson in Berlioz’s La Mort de Cleopatre on a program that also features Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra (April 13-14). The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach presents its own commission April 25 in a new work for the Escher String Quartet by American composer Andrew Norman; the concert at the Norton also includes quartets by Barber and Dvořák. And Miami’s own Amernet String Quartet is the guest of Paul Cienniwa at St. Paul’s; he joins the quartet for pieces by Soler and Henryk Gorecki, and then the quartet tackles the daunting Quartet No. 15 (Op. 132) of Beethoven (April 28).
The season comes to its end in the first week of May with the Master Chorale of South Florida performing Haydn’s Creation with soloists and the Lynn Philharmonia at Lynn (May 5); that same day, the expert young string quintet Sybarite 5 closes the Norton’s new concert series.
Miami-Dade and Broward: The Canadian Baroque specialist Bernard Labadie is on the podium for the New World Symphony for music by Handel, Haydn and Mozart (April 5-6), and the songwriter Ben Folds is the special guest of the Nu Deco Ensemble at the Knight Concert Hall with music by Copland and William Brittelle (April 18). Back at the New World, Michael Tilson Thomas leads his own Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, which he premiered a couple seasons ago; for this work that recalls Bernstein’s Mass he’ll have soprano Measha Brueggergosman, mezzo Kara Dugan and vocalist Mikaela Bennett (April 20).
One of MTT’s favorite concert partners, the spectacular Chinese-born pianist Yuja Wang, helps him close the New World season April 26 and 27 with the Fifth Piano Concerto of Prokofiev, on a closeout that includes the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique and the premiere of a new work by Bang on a Can eminence Julia Wolfe. The Symphony of the Americas closes out its season at the end of the month with longtime New York Philharmonic concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and his wife, violist Karen Dreyfus, in a new piece, as yet unspecified. (April 30)
In May, jazz pianist Aaron Parks is the guest of the Nu Deco Ensemble at the Arsht Center for its last concert of the season, featuring music by Andy Akiho and Nico Muhly. (May 9-11)