The Britten Season and More

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:01

A few bets on the 'first semester' of the classical-music season

The classical-music season is divided into two semesters, in a sense-though the second semester is far longer than the first. At any rate, I will make some recommendations for the first semester. We will begin with the New York Philharmonic.

In concerts starting on Sept. 26, Yefim Bronfman will play Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. If you have never heard him play this concerto, treat yourself to it. It is a powerful musical experience. In concerts starting on Oct. 30, Esa-Pekka Salonen will conduct a program that includes his own violin concerto. The program also includes music by Ravel and Sibelius. On Dec. 10, Manfred Honeck will lead an all-Dvorak program. One of the pieces is the violin concerto, in which the soloist will be Anne-Sophie Mutter. Dvorak is a canonical composer, but, strangely enough, his violin concerto is seldom programmed.

Move, now, to Carnegie Hall. On Oct. 10, Valery Gergiev will lead his Mariinsky orchestra in a program of Stravinsky: The Firebird, Pétrouchka and The Rite of Spring. If Gergiev is on, this concert will be hair-raisingly marvelous. If he is not, the concert could be a snoozeroo. On Oct. 13, James Levine is scheduled to continue his comeback from an army of health problems. He's to lead his Met orchestra in a varied program, one that has a soloist: Joyce DiDonato, the American mezzo-soprano. There's not a better singer in the world right now. A few may be equal (and just a few). But none is better.

This is a Britten year-the centennial of that composer's birth-and we have heard a lot of Britten already. We'll hear a lot more. On Oct. 20, Ian Bostridge, the English tenor, and others will perform Britten's Canticles. This work may not be your cup of tea. But chances are it will be brewed superbly. On Oct. 22, Yuja Wang, the sensational young pianist, will give a recital. Like the Mariinsky orchestra, she will play Pétrouchka. On Nov. 2 and 3, the Minnesota Orchestra will give concerts. In the first, Hilary Hahn will be the soloist, playing the Sibelius violin concerto. This could be a bracing, overwhelming experience, having almost physical effects. In the second concert, Anne-Sofie von Otter will be the soloist. This Swedish mezzo will be singing songs from nearby, composed by the Finnish master Sibelius. On Nov. 12, Joshua Bell will give a recital. Don't be put off by his Hollywood aura (or on): He is a first-rate violinist.

A pianist, Valentina Lisitsa, will give a recital at the 92nd St. Y on Oct. 19. She is a YouTube sensation. We will now have a chance to hear her in the flesh. On Dec. 3, also at the Y, Xuefei Yang will give a recital. She's a Chinese guitarist, but she can play more Spanishly than almost any Spaniard.

On Nov. 19, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will host a concert called "The Virtuoso Clarinetist," headlined by that virtuoso clarinetist, and profound musician, David Shifrin. Before that, on Nov. 10, Great Performers will host an Estonian orchestra and choir, conducted by that Estonian maestro, Neeme Järvi. The program will feature music by the nation's great composer, Arvo Pärt, and also by Mozart: his Ave verum corpus.

We will end with the Metropolitan Opera. The season opens on Sept. 23 with Eugene Onegin, conducted by Gergiev and starring Anna Netrebko as Tatiana. That could be a charisma-packed affair. Levine is scheduled to conduct Così fan tutte, starting on Sept. 24. In the cast are two singers who rarely disappoint: Isabel Leonard and Matthew Polenzani. The Met will do Tosca, starting on Oct. 29. Patricia Racette is in the title role and Roberto Alagna will sing Cavaradossi. If the stars are aligned, that will be a knockout. Die Frau ohne Schatten, the Strauss opera, will begin on Nov. 7. The production is that by the late Herbert Wernicke, one of the best productions in the Met arsenal.

Starting on Dec. 6, we will have Falstaff. Levine will conduct, and is there a better conductor of this work? In the title role will be Ambrogio Maestri, and can anyone do it better? Just last month, I heard the Covent Garden chief, Sir Antonio Pappano, say that Maestri is unrivaled in that role. The maestro, about Maestri, is dead right.