There’s no better time than the end of a year to think about the promising events to come in the next one. It’s a way to undercut the season’s natural inclination to nostalgia and reminiscence by contemplating the artistic riches ahead. Here is a selection of concerts to watch for in 2013.
DANIELE GATTI: The Italian-born conductor’s name has come up more than once as a possible successor to James Levine as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s music director. In part, that has to do with his age, 51 (about right for the job), and level of artistic prominence (currently music director of the Orchestre National de France). Just as surely, the speculation exists because Gatti will conduct three programs with the BSO between January and April. Intriguingly, each of the three will be devoted to a single composer, and two will mark significant bicentennials (Verdi and Wagner were both born in 1813): Gatti will conduct Verdi’s Requiem (Jan. 17-19) and a selection of Wagner excerpts (March 21-26). The third program is Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 3 (March 28-30). He’ll then bring the Mahler and Wagner programs on a sort of mini-tour to New York City and Newark (April 4-6). Details about the orchestra’s music director search are closely guarded secrets, but many will undoubtedly be listening closely when Gatti arrives here.
FOUR PIANISTS: An embarrassment of keyboard riches begins with the long-overdue Boston recital debut of pianist Paul Lewis, at only 40 one of the supreme pianists in the Romantic repertoire. A recent all-Schubert CD contains a performance of that composer’s A-minor Sonata (D. 845) that’s so fresh and perceptive that it will make most other versions superfluous. In Boston he’ll confront the pinnacle of Schubert’s achievement: the final three piano sonatas (Jan. 12). Jeremy Denk has a reputation as both a wonderfully insightful musician and as a phenomenally talented writer — see his recent Bach article for The New Republic for evidence of the latter. His recording of Ligeti and Beethoven was a highlight of 2012; at Jordan Hall he’ll play Liszt — including the arrangement of Wagner’s “Liebestod” — and Brahms (March 2). Jonathan Biss, son of two New England Conservatory professors, is in the midst of “Schumann: Under the Influence,” a season-long exploration of the composer and his musical successors. He visits Jordan Hall twice: once as a solo artist, with works by Schumann, Janacek, and Berg (March 22), and once with the Elias String Quartet, with an intriguing program made up of Purcell, Schumann, and a new work by Timothy Andres (April 12). Those all come courtesy of the Celebrity Series of Boston. Not to be missed, though, is a Rockport Music recital by the German pianist Lars Vogt, whose sensitivity and poise should make a fascinating match for a program of Schubert, Brahms, Bartok, and Thomas Larcher (April 26 at
Shalin Liu Performance Center).
JOHN HARBISON’S “GATSBY”: Given John Harbison’s prominence in Boston, it’s remarkable that his landmark opera “The Great Gatsby” has never been performed here. Composed in 1999 for the Metropolitan Opera, it was a remarkable melding of jazz-age idioms with the composer’s uniquely quizzical harmonic language. Harbison constructed the libretto himself from the novel; a New York Times writer commented at its premiere that the symbiosis of words and music was so acute “it seems that F. Scott Fitzgerald was sitting at the composer’s elbow.” Emmanuel Music rectifies a glaring omission in Boston music life by presenting a concert version at Jordan Hall (May 12).
JACK Quartet: Few groups approach the avant-garde as confidently as this one, well known for their performances of Georg Friedrich Haas’s Third String Quartet, which take place in complete darkness. They will be in Boston for two events: a Boston University concert with works by Haas, Enno Poppe, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Roger Reynolds. That’s part of a Sciarrino residency at BU’s Center for New Music (Feb. 26). A few days later, they cross the river to play new works by Harvard composers, under the auspices of the Harvard Group for New Music (March 2).
The MET Orchestra – While Classical Notes usually focuses on local events, a May 19 concert at Carnegie Hall will be watched eagerly by people throughout the music world. That performance will mark James Levine’s return to conducting after a near two-year absence. He is scheduled to lead the MET Orchestra in works by Wagner, Beethoven, and Schubert. Given Levine’s long list of health travails, it would probably be unwise to feel certain of his keeping the date, but many, many music lovers will undoubtedly have their fingers crossed that he does.