John Harbison plus 10

Picking from a packed concert schedule
By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  January 5, 2010

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ON THE RISE Courtney Lewis conducts the Discovery Ensemble in “Bach Meets the Neoclassicists” at Sanders Theatre.

Classical music in Boston is so rich, having to pick 10 special events for this winter preview is more like one-tenth of the performances I'm actually looking forward to. And though I'm supposed to choose only 10, I can't in good conscience narrow my list to less than 11. So here, in chronological order, is the cream of the cream.

JOHN HARBISON | One of Boston's most beloved musicians, composer John Harbison, will be featured at several events. Two of his cantatas will begin a concert by David Hoose and the Cantata Singers that's part of their year-long survey of Heinrich Schütz, the greatest German Baroque sacred composer after Bach and one of Harbison's major influences; the concert will close with the gorgeous and mysterious Duruflé Requiem. That's at the First Congregational Church, 11 Garden St, Cambridge | January 15 | $17 | 617.868.5885 or www.cantatasingers.org.

Harbison the Bach scholar and conductor will appear at Winsor Music's Second Annual Bach Birthday Celebration, which will include a master class (2 pm) and Harbison conducting Bach's Cantata No. 42 (7 pm). This one's at Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St, Boston | March 20 | free, but ticket required | 617.536.3356 or www.winsormusic.org. And Hoose will be back with Collage New Music conducting mezzo-soprano Andrea Coleman in Harbison's unsettling new song cycle of Louise Glück poems, The Seven Ages, at Longy School, 27 Garden St, Cambridge | March 22 | $15 | 617.325.5200 or www.collagenewmusic.org.

DISCOVERY ENSEMBLE | Slowly but surely audiences are discovering a superlative chamber group responsible for some of Boston's best concerts in years. Director Courtney Lewis's noble experiment is to bring free performances of classical music to inner-city kids, but his public concerts are passionately adult. DE's first program this year, "Bach Meets the Neoclassicists," includes Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3, Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, Bartók's Six Songs for Children's Chorus, and a ravishing Stravinsky masterpiece rarely heard outside of New York City Ballet, Apollon Musagète (better known as Apollo). They're at Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St, Cambridge | January 17 | $20; $10 students, seniors | 617.496.2222 or www.discoveryensemble.com.

BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA | We'll all be glad to see the return of BSO music director James Levine after his back surgery. He'll have French pianist Pierre-Laurant Aimard in Elliott Carter's dazzling Dialogues and Ravel's exhilarating Concerto for the Left Hand, as well as Berlioz's luscious Harold in Italy, with BSO principal violist Steven Ansell playing the luxurious solo, and then Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 ringing down the virtual curtain. That's in Symphony Hall, 301 Mass Ave, Boston | January 28-30 | $29-$105 ($20 if you're under 40) | 617.266.1200 or www.bso.org. (Also, March 18-20, Levine will conduct four of the Beethoven symphonies he had to bow out of last fall.)

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