With the range of classical music events awaiting us in the early months of this new year (and more to be announced in the coming months), you should have no problem chasing those persistent earworms out of the holidays.
The choice is vast, whether you prefer the intimate dimensions of solo and chamber recitals, epic musical adventures in the concert hall, or a groundbreaking opera about a pivotal but misunderstood figure in recent history. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of particularly attractive recommendations.
Seattle Chamber Music Society Winter Festival
The Seattle Chamber Music Society earns my vote as the region's most satisfying music presenter in 2023. To prepare us for the month-long immersion in passionate, close-up performances they host each July, SCMS offers a winter festival spread over two weekends (January 26-28 and February 2-4). It's shorter, but with many of the same distinguished musicians familiar from the summer, starting with artistic director and internationally renowned violinist James Ehnes. You can hear Ehnes perform on all six programs, alongside many visiting and Seattle-based colleagues. As well as much-loved classics like Brahms' String Sextet No. 1, the winter edition promises to focus on 20th-century British composers.
January 26 to 28 and February 2 to 4; Benaroya Hall, 200 University Street, Seattle; $30 to $65; subscriptions and streaming options available; the free prelude recital begins one hour before each concert; seattlechambermusic.org
“How Sweet the Sound: Black Voices in Orthodox Music”
Cappella Romana has carved out a distinctive niche for itself with its ethereal performances of Byzantine chant and Greek and Russian Orthodox sacred music. The ensemble explores new territory in this first-ever collaboration with Kingdom Sound, a Portland-based gospel choir founded and directed by Derrick McDuffey. Orthodox nun and abbess Mother Katherine Weston is a psychotherapist, iconographer and composer who focuses on racial reconciliation. His work “Bright Sadness” sets Orthodox liturgy to music based on African-American spirituals. The program also includes a gospel version of Eastern Orthodox Vespers by jazz musician and composer Shawn Wallace, written for choir, Hammond B3 organ and percussion.
February 9; St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2100 Boyer Ave. E., Seattle; $5 to $53; cappellaromana.org
“X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X”
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis wrote this pioneering first opera in the mid-1980s, but “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” has arguably become even more relevant to our conflict-ridden times . “In light of the ongoing observation of racial injustice – past and present – the time has come for us to revisit his life and legacy,” said Christina Scheppelmann, general director of Seattle Opera. “There is perhaps no better art form than opera for exploring a life of such cultural and historical significance, and it is high time that this work, written nearly 40 years ago by a notable figure in American music, is finally receiving the attention it deserves. .” This production was co-commissioned by a handful of American companies, including the Metropolitan Opera, where it premiered in November.
February 24-March 9; Seattle Opera at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; tickets from $35; see website for related events, including a discussion with Davis; seattleopera.org
Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani
In addition to the sheer pleasure of meeting a virtuoso at the top of his game, a performance by Mahan Esfahani inevitably broadens your musical horizons. The insatiable and curious harpsichordist – born in Iran, raised in the United States and long based in Prague – is a staunch advocate of the untapped potential of his instrument. His in-depth performances bring a new perspective to the vast harpsichord repertoire of early music. But a substantial part of his work relies on collaboration with contemporary composers like Anahita Abbasi, whose music for harpsichord and electronics shares the program with JS Bach, Domenico Scarlatti and Thomas Tomkins.
March 9; presented by Early Music Seattle at City Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; $18 to $63; earlymusicseattle.org
A Pair of Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphonies
Coincidentally, this spring offers local audiences a rare opportunity to hear live two symphonies by one of the greatest English composers of the 20th century. Guest conductor Gemma New returns to lead the Seattle Symphony in Ralph Vaughan Williams' 1952 “Antarctic Symphony.” Using the largest orchestra he ever used, a soprano soloist and a female chorus , the orchestra developed from a proposed score for the 1948 adventure film “Scott of the Antarctic” about Captain Robert Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the southernmost continent.
A week later, Seattle Pro Musica concludes its season with the impressive “A Sea Symphony,” with artistic director Karen P. Thomas conducting the chorus, soloists and the Auburn Symphony. The first and longest of Vaughan Williams' nine symphonies, this spectacular choral-orchestral work sets texts by Walt Whitman.
The Seattle Symphony performs “Antarctic Symphony” April 25, 27 and 28; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; tickets from $35; seattlesymphony.org
Seattle Pro Musica performs “A Sea Symphony” May 4 at St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave., Seattle, and May 5 at the Federal Way Performing Arts Center, 31510 Pete von Reichbauer Way S., Federal Way; $42 to $52; streaming available upon prior registration (free, donations accepted); seattlepromusica.org