That delicious flood of summer classical offerings is just about behind us, but the 2019-2020 fall-winter seasons promise a wide range of programming as they kick into gear this month.
Piano and vocal recitals. Chamber works. Operas, new and historic. Symphonic pieces of all sizes. And some notable performers.
Again this year the repertoire embraces the familiar, with Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Haydn, and Tchaikovsky popping up especially often. Beethoven is very much in evidence, although the real fête for his 250th birthday won’t arrive until 2020. There are some substantial offerings in contemporary music, including John Rutter’s Mass of the Children and Philip Glass’ Perpetulum, which premiered in 2018. Most of the new work, however, are short pieces, either sandwiched between longer, comfort-food choices or offered as appetizers in the hope that audience memories will be short if they prove unappealing.
While it’s business as usual onstage, the real drama will come from offstage. The financial future is murky for everyone, with increasing concerns about a possible recession and charitable giving already showing downtrends due to tax reform.
In addition, four of the city’s classical music organizations are working through major management transitions that will impact what we see and hear in future years. The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and Performance Santa Fe have new leaders in executive director Daniel Crupi and executive and artistic director Chad Hilligus, respectively. Their 2020-2021 season announcements will reflect the vision (and agendas) of these young administrators. After almost 40 years at the helm, Santa Fe Pro Musica co-founder and music director Thomas O’Connor lays down the baton. Will this be the chance for a woman to finally occupy one of our major artistic leadership positions?
Santa Fe Opera artistic director Alexander Neef, who also heads the Canadian Opera Company, was tapped in July to lead the enormous and administratively byzantine Paris National Opera. His future involvement here, if any, remains uncertain. In addition, three SFO department heads have resigned since January, giving general director Robert Meya a chance to assemble his own team, perhaps more quickly than he might have wished.
Here, Pasatiempo runs down the 2019-2020 programming in a special pullout section featuring some of the most exciting work of the fall and winter. Consult the organizations’ websites for complete details.
Curious about holiday events? Check out the Nov. 22 issue of Pasatiempo, which will outline what’s out there during the happiest time of the year.
This Albuquerque-based ensemble takes a contrarian approach to scheduling, opting for maximum planning flexibility with specific information about concerts posted on its website six to eight weeks in advance of each performance. The group is best known for its commitment to contemporary music, but its repertory reaches back as far as the Baroque era. Chatter also offers some very interesting thematic programming, such as a just-under-way traversal of Beethoven’s 16 string quartets on a “one-per-month” basis, through December 2020. The group expanded to Santa Fe in 2018 with “Chatter (in)SITE,” a series of short concerts on Saturday mornings at SITE Santa Fe.
TAKE NOTE: Three contemporary works, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 12, SITE Santa Fe, 1606 Paseo de Peralta, $15, with discounts for students and those under age 30. Soprano Ingela Onstad is featured on a program that consists of James Tenney’s Critical Band, Shirish Korde’s Tenderness of Cranes, and Joseph Schwantner’s Sparrows.
NEW MEXICO PERFORMING ARTS SOCIETY
“World class, locally sourced” is this 6-year-old performing arts society’s aspirational motto. Attaining it while competing with other groups that are also drawing from New Mexico’s finite talent pool is the challenge. Its programs are offered in venues across the state, and the repertory has two contrasting focuses — musical theater and the Baroque era. There’s zarzuela (Sept. 20), musical comedy (Nov. 14), and opera ( June 20) on the one hand, and Bach cantatas on the other (Mar. 1, May 3).
TAKE NOTE: Joy Comes to Deadhorse, 7 p.m., Nov. 14, National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th St. SW, Albuquerque, check for ticket availability. In the 1950s, New Mexico-based composer John Donald Robb and author Tom Jones developed a musical called Joy Comes to Deadhorse, based on a play by Edmond Rostand. After a tepid audience response, lots of tinkering, and a change of composer, it eventually morphed into The Fantasticks, which played off-Broadway for 42 years. This concert version of the original show will be augmented by a documentary about Robb made by New Mexico PBS. Will joy come to its listeners today? Who knows, but this may be your only chance to find out.
PERFORMANCE SANTA FE
As usual, PSF presents the area’s most diverse arts offerings, this season including dance, jazz, world music, and live poetry, in addition to six upcoming classical music concerts. While 2019-2020 doesn’t have the all-out star power of last season’s appearances by Emanuel Ax, the Emerson String Quartet, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, there are some 1,000-watt names, including fast-rising pianist Einav Yarden, who plays Bach, Haydn, Schumann, and Schoenberg (Nov. 21); the Kronos Quartet, which delivers a multimedia event combining live performance and film to explore the group’s 45-year commitment to contemporary music (Jan. 30); and pianist Yefim Bronfman in an all-Beethoven program, the repertory for which he’s most renowned (Mar. 27). Although Native Kentuckian Tessa Lark divides her time between bluegrass fiddle and classical violin, we’ll hear the latter in Santa Fe (May 8). Her work will be heavy on the paprika, including as it does Ravel’s Gypsy (Tzigane) and Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, along with music by Ysaÿe and Grieg.
TAKE NOTE: Third Coast Percussion, 7:30 p.m., Oct. 1, $29 to $115, with discounts available for students and teachers. If the term Third Coast baffles you, it’s the western shoreline of Lake Michigan. There, four Northwestern University percussion students started a group that now performs around the world and is known for its unique collaborations, like those with Notre Dame engineers and Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation architects. Their Santa Fe concert includes Glass’ Perpetulum, which the composer describes as a fusion of perpetual and momentum. This new work is a co-commission by Third Coast and Performance Santa Fe. The Chicago Tribune described it as “rich in musical incident” and “immensely appealing to hear,” saying “a sense of joy pervaded all this music.”
SANTA FE CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL
All of Beethoven’s Piano Trios, performed over three evenings, are one of the major highlights of the festival’s 48th season, which spans six weeks during July and August. Artistic director and 2019 Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts winner Marc Neikrug’s chamber opera A Song by Mahler receives its New Mexico premiere, with a top-notch artistic team in director Doug Fitch, vocalists Kelley O’Connor and Kelly Markgraf, clarinetist David Shifrin, and the FLUX Quartet. Other high-profile artists include Richard Goode in a solo piano recital, tenor Paul Groves on the Music at Noon series, and the foursome of violinist Leila Josefowicz, cellist Peter Wiley, clarinetist Ricardo Morales, and pianist Gilles Vonsattel performing Messiaen’s seminal Quartet for the End of Time.
SANTA FE DESERT CHORALE
July and August are the Desert Chorale’s busiest months. In 2020, the chorale — professional singers led by Joshua Habermann — has planned three programs, each with a unique thematic focus. “The Roaring 20s” highlights music by Francis Poulenc, George Gershwin, and Duke Ellington, among others. The work of contemporary composers from the Pacific Rim is featured in “Ring of Fire.” Music by two 17th-century Italian composers, Salamone Rossi and Claudio Monteverdi, is featured in “The Jew and The Gentile.”
TAKE NOTE: “Sacred Fire: The Celtic Tradition,” 8 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18, Cristo Rey Church, 1120 Canyon Road; 8 p.m. Dec. 19, 20, 21, and 22; 4 p.m. Dec. 22, Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, 131 Cathedral Place; $10 to $95, with student discounts available. The chorale’s contribution to the holiday event calendar features traditional music from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, performed in two of Santa Fe’s iconic churches.
SANTA FE OPERA
301 Opera Drive
The opera’s new management made a big noise when it announced the 2020 repertory, especially regarding Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde (premiering July 18), certainly the longest and one of the most challenging pieces ever attempted here — a potentially high-risk, high-reward maneuver. There’s world premiere cachet in the operatic version of David Henry Hwang’s Tony-winning play, M. Butterfly (Aug. 1), which only has to clear the low bar set by 2019’s commissioned opera, The Thirteenth Child, to be considered a success. Dvořák's lovely Rusalka ( July 25; long overdue for a Santa Fe staging), Rossini’s The Barber of Seville ( July 3), and Mozart’s The Magic Flute ( July 4) round out the repertory for a more adventurous season mix than in 2019.
Things aren’t going entirely dormant before the July launch, however, with a new initiative called Opera for All Voices, a seven-company venture intended “to bring new audiences to opera by commissioning important works that speak to all voices, designed with modern attention spans in mind, and aimed at breaking down preconceived notions that opera is antiquated or elitist.”
TAKE NOTE: Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun, 6 p.m. Oct. 26, Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St., $20 through the Lensic box office (505-988-1234, lensic.org). Composer Augusta Read Thomas makes her opera debut with this “Opera for All Voices” one-acter, in which Sweet Potato, a trickster character, and best friend 89, a hummingbird, learn lessons about protecting nature, the wisdom of older generations, and personal transformation. Well-known beatbox artist Nicole Paris is a featured performer, on hand, it seems, to demonstrate opera’s ability to interact with other art forms.
SANTA FE PRO MUSICA
Pro Musica offers 11 programs in 2019-2020, seven featuring its orchestra in a variety of sizes, and three by visiting string quartets. Santa Fe favorite Anne-Marie McDermott channels her inner Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as she conducts and plays keyboard for two of his greatest piano concertos (Nov. 2 and 3). McDermott has a rich history with Pro Musica as a performer, but this is the first time she has conducted the group. (Is it reading too much into it to think that this might be an audition for music director?) One of America’s foremost pianists and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant,” Jeremy Denk performs concertos by Mendelssohn and Schumann ( Jan. 25 and 26). The season closes with Haydn’s glorious oratorio The Creation (April 25 and 26).
TAKE NOTE: Heroic Beethoven, 4 p.m. Sept. 21; 3 p.m. Sept. 22, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St., $20 to $100, with student discounts available. Erich Wolfgang Korngold shot to international attention at age 23, with his opera The Dead City (Die tote Stadt), which was quickly staged around the world. When his music was banned in Germany by the Nazis because of his Jewish ancestry, he began a second career as a highly successful Hollywood film composer. His 1947 Violin Concerto in D Major made use of themes from five of his film scores. Korngold modified the themes significantly and developed them in ingenious ways, especially in the third movement, a highly virtuosic theme-and-variations for the soloist on the main theme from The Prince and the Pauper. The concert also includes Beethoven’s “Heroic” Symphony No. 3, which his contemporaries found impossibly long and bewilderingly complex. That’s no longer the case, of course: A 2016 survey of 151 conductors by the BBC Music Magazine named it the greatest symphony of all time.
SANTA FE SYMPHONY
The Santa Fe Symphony’s 36th season runs from mid-September through mid-May 2020, with 10 programs for full orchestra and two chamber music events. It includes plenty of familiar repertory (Hello, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Mussorgsky, Dvoˇrák, and Beethoven!) but there’s some real spice in some of the concerts as well. The Americana! program ( Jan. 19) offers a nicely feminist twist, with Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F Major played by Bailey-Michelle Collins, and Copland’s Lincoln Portrait narrated by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 4. The symphony chorus and a children’s chorus are featured on “Hope for the Planet” (Mar. 15) in John Rutter’s Mass of the Children. That’s preceded by Debussy’s La mer. Beethoven’s immense “Choral” Symphony No. 9 promises to be a highlight of the local Ludwigfest (May 16 and 17).
TAKE NOTE: Fire and Blood, 4 p.m. Oct. 13, $30 to $80, with student discounts available. Michael Daugherty is one of today’s leading composers and his Fire and Blood violin concerto is a splendid work. A six-time Grammy Award winner, Daugherty is often inspired by American popular culture. He first received national recognition for his 1991 Metropolis Symphony (yes, it’s the Metropolis of Superman). Fire and Blood was inspired by Diego Rivera’s enormous murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which famously depict an automobile plant assembly line. Violinist Ida Kavafian made a highly acclaimed recording of it in 2009, with a Detroit Free Press reviewer writing, “Played with striking authority by Detroit-bred soloist Ida Kavafian ... it is the most profound Daugherty piece I know, the best example of his eclectic and kinetic style reaching beyond surface excitement for deeply moving music that touches the soul.” Kavafian is the soloist for this concert, so her performance can be expected to be definitive. Berlioz’s quicksilver Overture to Beatrice and Benedict and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition round out the program.
SERENATA OF SANTA FE
Highly eclectic chamber music from the 20th and 21st centuries is the focus of Serenata and its New Mexico-based performers. Seven upcoming concerts include Jenny Lin’s solo piano recital “Silenced Music” (Nov. 15), music by Mompou, Ligeti, Silvestrov, and Liszt that makes particular use of silence. The hot-button subjects of barriers and migration are explored on twin programs in the new year. “Barriers” ( Jan. 10) offers songs by stylistically varied and musically progressive American composers who aren’t the usual suspects: Eve Beglarian, Conrad Cummings, Fred Rzewski, and Leslie Wildman. Eight new compositions by Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and Sri Lankan pianist Dinuk Wijeratne illuminate “Migration” (Feb. 7) by looking at the universality of the issue across cultures.
TAKE NOTE: “Latin Sunset,” 7 p.m., Sept. 28, Dance Station, 947 W. Alameda St., Suite B, $25 in advance from Brown Paper Tickets (bpt.me/4260944) or at the door. This is tango-based music as it should be done, accompanied by performers from Dance Station in addition to Serenata’s quintet of instrumentalists, in music by Manuel de Falla, Osvaldo Golijov, and Astor Piazzolla, including two movements from the latter’s groundbreaking History of the Tango.
Beyond Santa Fe
LOS ALAMOS CONCERT ASSOCIATION
Lane Smith Auditorium, Los Alamos High School, 1300 Diamond Drive, Los Alamos
Formed in 1946, when the Manhattan Project had closed the town as a military base, the concert association brings some first-rate performers to the area, with a five-event 2019-2020 season that began with pianists Shai Wosner and Orion Weiss on Sept. 8, and continues with the Horszowski Trio ( Jan. 31), and the enterprising Poulenc Trio (April 10), with its unusual repertory for oboe, bassoon, and piano that includes 22 world premieres.
TAKE NOTE: Winter Journey (Die Winterreise), 7 p.m. Dec. 5, $35 in advance or $40 at the door. The powerhouse duo of singer Eric Owens and pianist Jeremy Denk performs Franz Schubert’s iconic song cycle. Owens is one of America’s foremost bass-baritones. He stars as Porgy in the Metropolitan Opera’s new Porgy and Bess production this season and sings King Mark in Tristan and Isolde here next summer. This concert should be well worth the journey up N.M. State Road 502.
NEW MEXICO PHILHARMONIC
Multiple venues in Albuquerque
The philharmonic offers a nine-concert series of larger works in the University of New Mexico’s Popejoy Hall and five Afternoon Classics programs on weekends in smaller venues, all running from late September through May. Programming is strongly oriented toward familiar works by familiar names, although there are some less-frequently performed options that might tempt Santa Feans to make the drive south. Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 and Elgar’s Cello Concerto are on tap (Feb. 15) as is Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (Mar. 21). Carl Orff’s window-rattling Carmina Burana is the season-ender (May 2).
TAKE NOTE: Olga Kern International Piano Competition Finals, 6 p.m. Nov. 2, $22 to $75. Ever wanted to be in the audience of The Voice or America’s Got Talent? Here’s an alternative that doesn’t involve such expensive travel: 27 candidates have already been selected for the 2019 Olga Kern International Piano Competition, with preliminary rounds beginning in Albuquerque on Oct. 28. Kern, the competition’s artistic director, won the gold medal at the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. She was the first woman to win in more than 30 years and has had a major international career ever since. Four finalists will compete for the grand prize at the Nov. 2 concert with the orchestra, each playing his or her choice of a heavy-duty concerto by one of 13 composers. Audience members vote on their own award to be given to one of the finalists.
Albuquerque Journal Theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th St. SW, Albuquerque
Opera Southwest has garnered notice in recent years for its high performance standards and adventurous repertory choices, such as Lohengrin in a reconstruction of its original orchestration in 2018-2019 and Rossini’s William Tell the season before. Their 2019-2020 season includes Verdi’s La traviata and an easy-on-the-ears contemporary opera in Daniel Catán’s The Postman (Il Postino), based on the film of the same name. The season opener is a four-star rarity, however, perfect for operatic archeologists.
TAKE NOTE: Ali-Baba, 2 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25, $15 to $99. The opera, which is based on the well-known tale from One Thousand and One Nights, was a big hit in London at its 1871 premiere. Creator Giovanni Bottesini was something of a triple threat; in addition to composing, he was a well-known conductor (leading the world premiere of Aida in 1871) and an internationally famous virtuoso on the unwieldy double bass. The score for Ali-Baba was lost after the London production; OSW artistic director Anthony Barrese has resurrected it from the composer’s manuscript. This staging will be its first performance in nearly 150 years.
TAOS CHAMBER MUSIC GROUP
Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux St., Taos
The group’s 27th season consists of eight concerts from October to May, including the Boston-based group Hub New Music, a flute, clarinet, violin, and cello quartet (Nov. 9 and 10), Albuquerque’s Chatter ensemble ( Jan. 11 and 12), and Youthful Exuberance, a program of music by Mozart, George Rochberg, Judd Greenstein, and Ralph Vaughn Williams, written when the composers were 30 or younger (Mar. 14 and 15).
TAKE NOTE: Opening Weekend with Laurie Carney, 5:30 p.m., Oct. 5 and 6, $25, with student discounts available. Why not combine a chamber music concert with what should be a beautiful fall drive to Taos? American String Quartet violinist Laurie Carney joins flutist Nancy Laupheimer and pianist Debra Ayres for music by J.S. Bach, Gabriel Fauré, Eugene Goosens, and Zoltán Kodály. ◀