In other respects, 2022 may have been a problematic year. But it was a wonderful stretch of time on the classical music front, full of brilliant performances and provocative new works.
Because I’m a natural-born optimist, I’m going to assume this will continue into the new year. In chronological order, here are 12 events I’m looking forward to in the early months of 2023.
The eloquent American mezzo-soprano, fresh off her triumphant turn as Virginia Woolf in the world premiere of Kevin Puts’ opera “The Hours” at the Metropolitan Opera, returns to the Bay Area with her new music/theatrical recital “Eden.” Together with the Baroque instrumental ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro, she has assembled music by Ives, Mahler, Handel, Copland and more — as well as a newly commissioned song by the British composer Rachel Portman — to address the climate crisis.
7:30 p.m. Jan. 20. $15-$148. Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University. 650-724-2464. https://live.stanford.edu; 8 p.m. Jan. 21. $36-$86. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley. 510-642-9988. https://calperformances.org
As it continues a multiyear search for a music director to succeed the late Michael Morgan, each of the orchestra’s programs offers a chance to witness not only a guest conductor’s performance style, but their repertoire choices as well. Guest conductor Andrew Grams comes to Oakland with an all-American program featuring music by two African American figures, Florence Price and William Dawson; both of them works based on folk themes. Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody, with piano soloist Sara Davis Buechner, fills out the program.
8 p.m. Jan. 27. $19.60-$90. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. 510-444-0801. www.oaklandsymphony.org
San Francisco Symphony: ‘Emergency Shelter Intake Form’
Gabriel Kahane is best known as a singer-songwriter, the creator of rich and harmonically inventive music that explores both the interior and the public landscapes. But his music draws equally on the pop and classical lexicon, which makes the prospect of a full orchestral score — to be introduced by the San Francisco Symphony with conductor Edwin Outwater — something to look forward to with enthusiasm. The piece, which takes its title from the world of bureaucracy, is on the subject of homelessness.
Feb. 2-3. $43-$135. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415-864-6000. www.sfsymphony.org
Every appearance by Japanese violinist Midori is a treat, an extravagant blend of dazzling technical skill and probing interpretive insight lavished on both traditional and out-of-the way repertoire. Her two San Francisco recitals are anchored by Bach’s music for unaccompanied violin, which she’s pair with recent works by Thierry Escaich, Annie Gosfield, Jessie Montgomery and John Zorn.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 2. 2 p.m. Feb. 5. $50-$70. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415-392-2545. www.sfperformances.org
‘Everest: An Immersive Experience’
The video version of composer Joby Talbot’s opera “Everest,” which Opera Parallèle created during the pandemic lockdown, was a marvel of genre hybridization that blended recorded singing, animation and the aesthetic of the graphic novel. Now that audiences can more safely gather in person, director Brian Staufenbiel has repurposed the material as an immersive show, with the video and music resounding all around the audience.
“Everest: An Immersive Experience”: Opera Parallèle. Feb. 3-12. $20-$115. Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F. https://operaparallele.org.
The venerable conductor and composer — not of film scores exclusively, but of concert music as well — returns to the Bay Area for a one-night visit with the San Francisco Symphony. Anne-Sophie Mutter is slated to serve as soloist in Williams’ Violin Concerto No. 2, on a program that also features music from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” franchises, “Cinderella Liberty” and more.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 14. Sold out. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415-864-6000. www.sfsymphony.org
San Francisco Performances’ annual Pivot Festival is given over to three recitals by this ambitious string quartet, which has devoted itself to championing the overlooked work of Black and female composers. Each of the programs includes a quartet by the 18th century musician Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges; along with that recurrent theme comes a range of music by such composers as Ethel Smyth, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Fanny Mendelssohn and more.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 21-23. $45-$65. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415-392-2545. www.sfperformances.org
At the end of 2021, Harry Bicket and the English Concert came to Berkeley for a performance of Handel’s opera “Alcina” that was marked by powerful singing and regrettable technical mishaps. Without the latter, the group’s return — for a single performance of Handel’s Biblical oratorio “Solomon” — promises to be sublime. Mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg takes the title role, with soprano Miah Persson as Solomon’s Queen.
3 p.m. March 5. $42-$125. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley. 510-642-9988. https://calperformances.org
The orchestra regarded by some as the world’s finest comes to Berkeley for a three-concert stint, led by the acclaimed German conductor Christian Thielemann. The repertoire choices are narrow (Brahms, Bruckner, Mendelssohn, etc.), but the orchestra’s gloriously burnished sound and its members’ ability to play as one may well prove revelatory.
7:30 p.m. March 7-9. $50-$275. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley. 510-642-9988. https://calperformances.org
Gustav Mahler infamously declared after marrying the vivacious and talented Alma Schindler that there could be only one composer in the family, thus putting a halt to her creative aspirations. But some of her fragrant, expressive early songs do remain, and contralto Sara Couden is slated to sing them with Music Director Donato Cabrera and the California Symphony.
The rest of the program throws a spotlight on other members of Mahler’s social circle, Alexander von Zemlinsky and the little-known Hans Rott.
7:30 p.m. March 25. 4 p.m. March 26. $49-$79. Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek. 925-943-7469. www.californiasymphony.org
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale: ‘Amadigi di Gaula’
The differences between Handel’s operas and oratorios can sometimes seem narrow; aside from the difference in language (Italian versus English), the musical procedures are pretty similar. But the operas do partake of a slightly unhinged quality that the oratorios rarely touch. A case in point is “Amadigi di Gaula,” a tale of sorcery and vengeance that is due for performance by Richard Egarr and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, unforgettable in the group’s 2020 staging of “Aci, Galatea e Polifemo,” returns in the title role.
8 p.m. April 20-22. $80-$120. Taube Atrium Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415-295-1900. www.philharmonia.org
Pocket Opera: ‘Albert Herring’
Pocket Opera tackles the music of Britten for the first time in its four-decade history, and what could be more appropriate than this delightful chamber comedy of a repressed young man who successfully throws off societal (and parental) expectations to find his own way in life? Tenor Sam Faustine takes the title role, with conductor David Drummond serving as music director and stage direction by Nicolas A. Garcia.
April 23-May 7. $30-$75. Locations in Berkeley, San Francisco and Mountain View. 415-972-8934. www.pocketopera.org