Head off the well-worn path for classical-music options in Baltimore

With all the usual fresh-look-forward talk prompted by the new year, it's a good time to consider broadening your musical horizons to include performances presented by groups that might have been off your radar.

Baltimore is not just fortunate to have a major orchestra, but also several smaller organizations that provide a good deal of musical value. The area is also rich in academic campuses — Peabody Institute, Towson University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, etc. — where a lot of classical music activity takes place.

It's safe to say that all these enterprises would welcome bigger audiences in 2013. Here is just a sampling of events worth considering:

The Bach Concert Series, directed by T. Herbert Dimmock, offers mostly free programs on the first Sunday of the month. To start off the new year this weekend, Bach's genius will be demonstrated with performances of a cantata, a solo cello suite and Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in the organization's Inner Harbor venue — 4 p.m. Sunday at Christ Lutheran Church, 701 S. Charles St. (410-941-9262, bachinbaltimore.org).

Speaking of Bach, don't overlook Pro Musica Rara. This enterprise, led by the excellent cellist Allen Whear, is dedicated to performing on authentic period instruments, giving listeners a great opportunity to hear 17th- and 18th-century music the way audiences of those eras did.

Pro Musica's annual "SuperBach Sunday" concert will provide a colorful alternative to the Super Bowl with performances of Bach's "Musical Offering" and other works that have a connection to Frederick the Great — Feb. 3 at Towson University Center for the Arts, Osler and Cross Campus drives (410-704-2787, promusicarara.org).

Concert Artists of Baltimore includes an orchestra and a chorus, which opens up a wide range of programming for artistic director Edward Polochick. In the spring, you'll find a Mass by Beethoven and a piano concerto by Saint-Saens sharing a concert; a Mass by Vaughan Williams and a suite by Ravel sharing another.

Meanwhile, consider a multimedia presentation this month, when such popular works as Copland's "Appalachian Spring" and Barber's "Adagio for Strings" will be performed with projections of images by a "photo-choreographer" — Jan. 12 at Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills (410-625-3525, cabalto.org).

The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Markand Thakar, is another entity in the area that regularly offers appealing programs.

A case in point features guest soloist Katherine Needleman, the BSO's superb principal oboe, in concertos by Bach and Vaughan Williams. Filling out this concert are vibrant works by Mozart and Ernest Bloch — Feb. 10 at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road. (410-685-4050, thebco.org).

The modest-budget concert presenters around the area may not be able to rival the lineup of visiting artists on the roster of the Shriver Hall Concert Series, but they do a remarkable job just the same, especially when it comes to showcasing up-and-coming musicians. Community Concerts at Second is a prime example, especially given that, thanks to generous donors, admission is free.

Due this month is Lithuanian pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute in an adventurous recital that includes music of Scriabin, Schoenberg, Debussy, Janacek and Berg — Jan. 20 at Second Presbyterian Church, 4200 St. Paul St. (443-759-3309, communityconcertsatsecond.org).

And don't forget the Chamber Music by Candlelight series, also at that church and also free, showcasing members of the BSO in an appealingly eclectic range of repertoire for a variety of instrumental combinations.

Back to Shriver Hall Concert Series for a moment. In addition to its regular activity at its namesake venue, this organization presents a separate, free Discovery Series at the Baltimore Museum of Art featuring gifted young artists (410-516-7164, shriverconcerts.org).

This only scratches the surface of the musical attractions out there, attractions that promise to spice up 2013 for classical music fans.


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