Looking ahead to bounty of 2016 concerts
The end of a year invariably has a retrospective feel, awash as it is in lists of the best and most notable. Backward glances are all well and good, but this is also the right time for looking forward, anticipating the pleasures and new vistas promised by the new year. So for its final iteration of 2015, Classical Notes anticipates some notable musical offerings of 2016, listed in chronological order.
LORELEI ENSEMBLE (Jan. 10) The adventurous women's chorus kicks off the Gardner Museum's spring season with David Lang's "love fail," a compressed, decontextualized retelling of the Tristan and Isolde story. The piece originally was written for the early-music vocal quartet Anonymous 4; here, Lorelei gives the first local performance of the choral arrangement.
HUB NEW MUSIC (Jan. 24) This inventive ensemble, which earlier in the season gave dynamic performances of music by Andrew Norman, makes its Jordan Hall debut with an evening of works by Kati Agócs, a composer on the faculty of New England Conservatory. The program will include the premiere of a work for two sopranos and percussion. (Agócs's music will also appear on a new CD by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project this month.)
TIMES TWO (Jan. 29) This innovative concert series pairs intrepid performers from across genres. This iteration at The Record Company brings together the jazz fusion band Gutbucket with Boston Conservatory percussionist Doug Perkins and a small group of the school's percussion students. The latter's set will include music by Gutbucket's saxophonist, Ken Thomson.
PAOLA PRESTINI (Feb. 4) Opera producer Beth Morrison presents the second of three works in the Gardner Museum's "Stir" series: "Labyrinth," a pair of "conjoined installation concertos" by Paola Prestini, a composer and executive director of the new Brooklyn performance space National Sawdust. The pieces combine electronics, visual projections, and the talents of two superb soloists: violinist Tim Fain and cellist Maya Beiser.
BARBARA HANNIGAN (Feb. 4-6) Hannigan, a Canadian soprano, has made her name as a new-music singer of exacting musicianship and vivid theatricality. Two performances of recent vintage testify to her formidable skills: as the neglected, mistreated Agnès in George Benjamin's opera "Written on Skin," and as the soloist in Ligeti's "Mysteries of the Macabre," which she performed to insidiously great effect in London in January. She's also created a parallel career as a conductor, but for her Boston Symphony Orchestra debut, Andris Nelsons will be on the podium. She sings "let me tell you," composed for her by the Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen. In November, the piece won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for music composition.
SOUND ICON (Feb. 5) Timed to coincide with the BSO performance, Boston's crusading new-music sinfonietta will perform two keenly impressionistic Abrahamsen works suited to the season: "Schnee" ("Snow"), completed in 2008, whose inspiration the composer once described as "all the sides of snow — the new-falling snow, or the snow that is lying on the surface, or a black snow landscape"; and "Winternacht" ("Winter Night") from 1978, which his fellow Danish composer Poul Ruders called "very precise and dreamingly poetic." The evening will also feature a discussion with the composer.
ANDRÁS SCHIFF (Feb. 26) On his last visit to Boston, in 2013, the magisterial pianist played music's two greatest variation sets: Bach's Goldbergs and Beethoven's Diabellis. Shockingly, he added an encore, an ethereal reading of the last movement of Beethoven's last piano sonata. Now he returns with another fully stocked program, this one exclusively made up of final sonatas: Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, and of course, Beethoven.
FLUX QUARTET (Feb. 28) One of a number of terrific new-music quartets, the FLUX has made its reputation largely on the basis of a single piece: Morton Feldman's hypnotic single-movement Second String Quartet, a performance of which customarily lasts about six hours. It's a work that requires a special kind of physical and mental concentration to pull off, and the FLUX has repeatedly shown itself up to the challenge.
MONTREAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (March 16) The illustrious orchestra undertakes its most extensive American tour in a quarter century. It is marking a decade under music director Kent Nagano, widely credited with restoring the orchestra after a period of turmoil. It brings to Symphony Hall a program of Stravinsky, Debussy, and Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto with soloist Daniil Trifonov.
LUIGI NONO (March 23-26) The late electroacoustic music of the Italian composer is the subject of a four-day gathering at Tufts University. Nono's works united avant-garde techniques — his wife was Nuria Schoenberg, the composer's daughter — with passionately held left-wing political beliefs. His works involving electronics are at the center of this conference, which brings together composers, scholars, musicians, and sound engineers to examine these challenging creations, which will also be heard in four public concerts.