Hot spots for classical music and theater this winter in Baltimore

Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
If Baltimore gets a truly cold winter, there will be plenty of hot events in concert halls and theaters.

Having had at least a little taste of genuine wintry temperatures as the New Year commenced, it's a good time to consider diversions scheduled for local concert halls and stages during the (presumably) cold months ahead.

Here are just a few events on the calendar that strike me as especially promising sources of winter relief.

From the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (bsomusic.org), the big deal is the centennial bash on Feb. 11 — 100 years, to the day, since the ensemble's first concert.

That program at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall showcases ever-popular, ever-youthful Joshua Bell as violin soloist in an arrangement of music from Bernstein's "West Side Story." The orchestra will also perform a new work written for the occasion by genre-hopping composer Mason Bates.

In addition to the birthday concert, the BSO has several other enticing programs on tap, including one that will find music director Marin Alsop digging into the mystery and the genius of Elgar's "Enigma Variations" (Feb. 25-28).

The orchestra's terrific principal guest conductor Markus Stenz will lead performances of Brahms' profound "German Requiem," featuring the University of Maryland Concert Choir and celebrated bass-baritone Eric Owens (March 4-6).

And winter's final days will see a much-awaited return visit by the BSO's inspiring music director emeritus Yuri Temirkanov. His program offers Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 and, with the extraordinary Denis Matsuev as soloist, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 (March 17-19).

Classical fans should also take note of some great artists and repertoire presented by the Shriver Hall Concert Series (shriverconcerts.org).

Europa Galante, the top-drawer early music group from Italy founded and led by Fabio Biondi, explores works from 18th-century Venice (Jan. 17). The New York-based chamber orchestra called The Knights and brilliant violinist Gil Shaham deliver the world premiere of a concerto by remarkable Baltimore composer Jonathan Leshnoff (Feb. 14). And soprano Nicole Cabell, winner of the 2005 BBC Singer of the World Competition, will perform works by Dvorak, Ravel and others, as well as spirituals (March 6).

Choral music by Rachmaninoff and a piece for string orchestra by neglected American composer David Diamond are among the colorful selections programmed by Concert Artists of Baltimore (cabmusic.org), conducted by Edward Polochick at St. Pius X Church (March 5).

The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra (thebco.org) will feature its concertmaster, Madeline Adkins, in a Bach concerto at Goucher College. The program, conducted by Markand Thakar, also has room for Sarasate, Elgar, Shostakovich and more Bach (Jan. 17).

And Pro Musica Rara (promusicarara.org) celebrates Haydn in a program at Maryvale School that includes one of his greatest quartets, along with chamber versions of two of his finest symphonies (Jan. 24).

This winter sees Center Stage (centerstage.org) taking up temporary residence at Towson University, while the company's downtown Baltimore venue undergoes major renovations. First up is Shakespeare's "As You Like It" with a twist — an all-female cast (Jan. 15-Feb. 14).

Meanwhile, Everyman Theatre (everymantheatre.org) will move quickly from its current hit, "Outside Mullingar," which closes this weekend, to a family drama by Michael Hollinger, "Under the Skin" (Jan. 20-Feb. 21).

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (chesapeakeshakespeare.com) sows some wild oats with "Wild Oats," an 18th-century comedy by John O'Keeffe that was forgotten for almost two centuries (March 4-27).

Fells Point Corner Theatre (fpct.org) tackles Patrick Barlow's Hitchcock spoof "The 39 Steps" (Jan. 15-Feb. 14), while Vagabond Players (vagabondplayers.org) revives "The Normal Heart," the modern classic by Larry Kramer about the early days of the AIDS crisis (Feb. 26-March 20).

Baltimore Theatre Project (theatreproject.org) offers the provocative "Hick: A Love Story," a Lilith Theater of San Francisco production that examines the relationship between journalist Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt (Feb. 25-March 6).

For something completely different, consider a Cohesion Theatre Company (cohesiontheatre.org) project at St. Mary's Community Theatre in conjunction with Baltimore Shakespeare Factory: "The Complete Deaths of William Shakespeare," a romp through the body count from the Bard's 37 plays (Jan. 15-17).

And speaking of different, Peabody Chamber Opera (peabody.jhu.edu) will stage "The Ghost Train," an operatic thriller by Paul Crabtree, in a suitably atmospheric spot — the B&O Railroad Museum (Feb. 11-13).

tim.smith@baltsun.com

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