The classical season looks mostly normal this year, with COVID protocols in place and venues opening back up. There are a host of major artists and groups coming to the county this year, from established veterans to exciting new talents.
Although some usual season players are missing as of this writing (the Flagler Museum has not yet said whether its chamber music series will return), or mounting another year of virtual concerts (the Lynn Philharmonia), there is an abundance of great music and stellar performers on tap for devotees of classical music for 2021-22.
The biggest problem fans will have is trying to decide how to fit all these concerts in:
The season proper starts Nov. 7 with the Palm Beach Symphony, which brings the great French pianist Hélène Grimaud to the Kravis Center stage for the Schumann Piano Concerto. Conductor Gerard Schwarz has also programmed Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Umoja, a short work by Valerie Coleman, a Black American woman composer who founded the Imani Winds quintet. Later that afternoon, it’s the sound of the Baroque, as the masterful Miami concert choir Seraphic Fire performs Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, with countertenor Reginald Mobley and soprano Lauren Snouffer, audience favorites. Also on the program are shorter pieces that quote this lovely, masterful work by the tragically short-lived composer. The choir comes to St. Gregory’s Episcopal in Boca Raton, the choir’s usual Palm Beach County venue, for this concert.
The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach makes its first appearance this month, with a concert at The Breakers in Palm Beach on Nov. 15 featuring artistic director Arnaud Sussman, a fine violinist, in the Horn Trio of Johannes Brahms and the Sextet of Ernest von Dohnanyi. And on Nov. 21 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca, the Master Chorale of South Florida presents Mozart’s Requiem.
Clarinetist Jon Manasse and the Master Chorale of South Florida join the Palm Beach Symphony on Dec. 2 at the Kravis for an examination of Mozart’s final year, 1791, in which he produced the Clarinet Concerto and the Requiem, as well as the motet Ave verum corpus, all on the program. Conductor Alexander Platt makes a welcome return to the podium at The Symphonia of Boca Raton with guitarist Jason Vieaux on Dec. 5 at St. Andrew’s School for Rodrigo’s classic Concierto de Aranjuez. Bizet’s Symphony in C and Fauré’s Masques et Bergamasques round out the program.
French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet offers a recital at the Kravis Center on Dec. 6 of the complete Preludes of Claude Debussy, while the New World Symphony of Miami Beach travels to the same venue Dec. 12 with the pioneering woman conductor Marin Alsop. She’ll welcome pianist Aaron Diehl for Gershwin’s Concerto in F, in a new edition, and also lead the New World musicians in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade as well as Masquerade, a work by the young British composer Anna Clyne.
Seraphic Fire brings its beloved concert of Christmas music to St. Gregory’s on Dec. 14. The next day, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York performs all six of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, in their 300th anniversary year, at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach.
The Kravis Center’s Young Artists series opens at the Rinker Playhouse Dec. 16 with a concert by pianist Wynona Wang, a prize-winning student at Juilliard. Two splendid musicians, violinist James Ehnes and pianist Inon Barnatan, unite for violin sonatas by Beethoven, Fauré and Schubert (the C major Fantasy) at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach on Dec. 22.
The year 2022 opens in regal style with the eminent American soprano Renée Fleming in recital at the Kravis Center on Jan. 2 Violinist and conductor Andrés Cárdenes performs virtuoso works by Paganini and Vivaldi, and leads the strings of The Symphonia in a rarity, Mahler’s arrangement of the Schubert Death and the Maiden string quartet, at St. Andrew’s on Jan. 9. That same day, the excellent Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki gives a Chopin recital at the Four Arts.
Pianist Yefim Bronfman performs Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto with the Palm Beach Symphony at the Kravis on Jan. 10; Shostakovich’s Fifth and Anatoly Liadov’s Kikimora are also on the bill. Cellist Gabriel Martins and violinist Geneva Lewis present a duo recital at the Rinker Playhouse on Jan. 11, and soprano Susana Phillips is joined by violist Paul Neubauer and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott (as the Spa Trio) for a concert of songs from the British Isles and Italy, as well as Schumann, Gounod and Rachmaninov, at the Norton on Jan. 13. Philips appears again three days later at the Four Arts with the Escher String Quartet for music by Respighi, Dvořák and the little-known American composer Arthur Shepherd.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra journeys to the Kravis on Jan. 17 with conductor Jader Bignamini for the Dvořák Cello Concerto with cellist Joshua Roman; also scheduled are the Brahms Second Symphony and Banner, by the young American composer Jessie Montgomery. On Jan. 19, Palm Beach State College’s Classical Café series on Wednesday afternoons begins at the Duncan Theatre with a concert by the Rolston String Quartet, a young Canadian foursome. That same day at the Four Arts, violinist Sean Lee and pianist Peter Dugan perform Schumann’s arrangement of the 24 violin caprices of Paganini.
Another major American symphonic ensemble, the Cleveland Orchestra, comes to the Kravis on Jan. 23 for Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and the Linz Symphony (No. 36 in C) of Mozart; longtime director Franz Welser-Möst is at the helm. That same day at the Four Arts, clarinetist Anthony McGill joins the splendid Pacifica Quartet for quintets by Weber and James Lee III, with Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 2 also on the program.
New York’s Lysander Piano Trio comes to the Duncan on Feb. 2 for the Classical Café series, and the Montrose Trio, an all-star threesome of violinist Martin Beaver, cellist Clive Greensmith and pianist Jon Kimura Parker, play Dvořák’s Dumky Trio and Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 1 at Trinity Church in West Palm Beach on Feb. 3. Pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, the husband-and-wife team that run the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, continue their Four Arts residency this month with three programs centered on the work of Antonin Dvořák. The first one, on Feb. 6, includes the Czech master’s String Quintet along with the Smetana Piano Trio and music by Dvořák’s African-American student, Harry Burleigh.
The Russian National Orchestra mounts a two-day stay at the Kravis on Feb. 6 and 7 with conductor Kirill Karabits; pianist Alexander Malofeev plays the deathless Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto on a program with Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony on Feb. 6, while on Feb. 7, Malofeev is the soloist in the Prokofiev Third Concerto and the orchestra performs Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. Soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano joins Han and Finckel for songs by Dvořák and his mentor, Johannes Brahms, on a program with the Dvořák Piano Quartet No. 2 on Feb. 9 at the Four Arts. That same night, flutist Anthony Trionfo and pianist Albert Cano Smit present a concert at the Rinker Playhouse, and on Feb. 13, the Four Arts wraps its Dvořák series with the Piano Quintet; also on the program are piano quartets by Brahms and Josef Suk.
The Verona Quartet, in residence at Oberlin, comes to the Classical Café series at the Duncan Theatre on Feb. 16, and on Feb. 24 at the Norton, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, joined by the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach’s Sussmann on viola, performs a quintet by Mendelssohn and other works. The month comes to a close on Feb. 27 at St. Gregory’s in Boca with Seraphic Fire’s performance of two Bach cantatas — Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben and Nun komm, der heiden Heiland — plus the too-rarely heard Mass in G minor. The great American violinist Joshua Bell brings his British orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, to the Kravis for a two-day stay starting Feb. 28, when he’ll solo in the Dvořák Violin Concerto on a program that also includes the Mendelssohn Italian Symphony and Adoration, a piece by a Black American composer getting much overdue attention these days, Florence Price.
On the Academy’s second concert March 1, Bell is the soloist in the Bach Violin Concerto in A minor and the Violin Concerto of Samuel Barber, and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony fills out the bill. And it wouldn’t be spring in Palm Beach County without a recital by violinist Itzhak Perlman, who returns to the Kravis on March 6 with longtime pianist Rohan de Silva. That same day, the Master Chorale presents its Best of Broadway program at FAU’s University Theatre. The marvelous Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires plays Beethoven’s Third Concerto with the Palm Beach Symphony on March 7 at the Kravis; conductor Schwarz has also programmed Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (soprano soloist not yet announced).
he Québécois early music ensemble Les Violons du Roy arrives at the Four Arts on March 9 with the brilliant American pianist Jeremy Denk, who will perform two Bach keyboard concertos with the group. Also on March 9, the Young Artists series at the Rinker Playhouse welcomes violist Jordan Bak and pianist Jiyung Lee. The Denmark-based Trio Con Brio Copenhagen plays piano trios by Haydn, Schubert and Shostakovich on March 13 at the Four Arts, to be followed there on March 16 by the Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, who will play music by Schumann and Shostakovich as well as improvise, a regular feature of her concerts.
Pianist de Silva teams up with another string soloist, the young cellist Zlatomir Fung, for music by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Ernest Bloch and Judith Weir in a recital March 17 at Trinity Church. Mandolinist Avi Avital joins the Brooklyn Rider string quartet March 20 at the Four Arts, and on March 23, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center returns to that venue for music by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms (the Piano Quartet No. 2). The Omer Quartet, which is in residence at the University of Maryland, performs at the Duncan Theatre that afternoon. The Lincoln Center group mounts a second program on March 27 at the Four Arts, this one featuring music from early 20th-century Paris, including pieces by Copland, Gershwin, Ravel, Milhaud, Lili Boulanger and George Walker.
Also on March 27, Canadian pianist Marika Bournaki plays the Beethoven Third Concerto with The Symphonia at St. Andrew’s. Conductor Laura Jackson also leads the ensemble in music by Julia Adolphe and Benjamin Britten. The Danish String Quartet comes to the Four Arts on March 30 for music of Schubert (Death and the Maiden) and arrangements of Scandinavian folksongs.
The New York Philharmonic String Quartet, made up of standout soloists from that orchestra, plays the Kravis on April 3; they’ll perform music by Mozart, Beethoven, Webern and the Bahamian-born American composer Joel Thompson. The innovative American organist Cameron Carpenter returns to the Kravis and its digital organ, which he debuted, on April 7. Music by the 20th-century Czech composer Miloslav Kabeláč is on the program. That same day, the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach wraps its season at The Breakers with sextets by Brahms and Tchaikovsky (Souvenir de Florence).
The great Japanese-American violinist Midori joins the Palm Beach Symphony on April 10 at the Kravis Center in the Violin Concerto by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; also planned is William Schuman’s New England Triptych and Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony. Pianist Joshua Rifkin, who did more than any other musician to revive interest in Scott Joplin, presents a program of rags by the American master as well as tangos by Brazil’s Ernesto Nazareth in a recital at the Four Arts, also on April 10.
The Symphonia closes its season April 24 at St. Andrew’s with flutist Les Roettges of the Jacksonville Symphony in a concerto by François Devienne, a contemporary of Mozart; conductor Alastair Willis also leads the group in music by Mendelssohn and Manuel de Falla (El Amor Brujo), as well as a string orchestra work, Reflection on a Memorial, written last year by the young Black American composer Quinn Mason.
Seraphic Fire ends its season with a performance of the complete Messiah of George Frideric Handel, which is actually a piece for Easter, not Christmas. They’ll perform the work May 1 in Boca, with the location to be announced. The Master Chorale presents its season-ender on May 8 at FAU; it’s Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, the German composer’s mashup of medieval student songs.