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The Season Ahead

September 11, 2007

With autumn upon us, the Bay Area's classical music groups are tuning up for hundreds of intriguing events. San Francisco Classical Voice asked several of our critics and editors to comb through the performance announcements available to date and pick their favorite choices for September through December. We've put the season in chronological order for the convenience of music-lovers organizing their datebooks. Of course, there's much more than this happening throughout the Bay Area, so be sure to keep checking SFCV's comprehensive Performance Calendar and our more selective weekly Listening Ahead column, which resumes next week.September
Chanticleer's 30th Birthday
The men's chorus celebrates its 30th birthday in Chanticleer style, with a concert spanning centuries of great choral music. The program, "My Spirit Sang All Day," includes music from Byrd and Palestrina through to Poulenc and Barber, with stops for Mahler and the Romantics, plus, of course, new commissions, spirituals, and folk songs.

Sept. 15, 22, 8 p.m., Sept. 23, 5 p.m., S.F. Conservatory of Music Concert Hall, San Francisco; Sept. 16, 3 p.m., Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Davis; Sept. 17, 8 p.m., Mission Santa Clara, Santa Clara; Sept. 19, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Sept. 20, 8 p.m., St. Vincent Church, Petaluma; $25-$44, (415) 252-8589, www.chanticleer.org. (L.H.)

Chanticleer

Tannhäuser
Richard Wagner’s oft-revised fifth opera is one of his most dramatic and popular works. The score pulses with energy and is extraordinarily tuneful (not something you always associate with Wagner). If the leading tenor isn’t killed early on by the notoriously high tessitura of the role, Tannhäuser’s death scene is one of the most affecting in 19th-century opera. Peter Seiffert, who won a Grammy for his portrayal of the minstrel-knight in Daniel Barenboim’s 2004 recording, will make his San Francisco Opera debut in the role, with his wife, Petra Maria Schnitzer, as Elisabeth, and expert Wagnerian Donald Runnicles on the podium. Don’t expect the usual on stage, though: The production is being directed by the celebrated Graham Vick, founder of the trailblazing Birmingham Opera Company and a dedicated challenger of operatic tradition.

Sept. 18, 26, 29, Oct. 3, 12, 7 p.m.; Sept. 23, Oct. 7, 1 p.m.; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, $25-$200, (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com. (M.Z.)

Wayne Peterson 80th Birthday Concert
Contemporary music specialists Earplay salute the Pulitzer-winning composer with a special concert of works from the past 14 years, including one of its own commissions, A Three Piece Suite.

Sept. 20, 7 p.m., Knuth Hall, San Francisco State University, (415) 338-1431, www.earplay.org. (M.Z.)

Il re pastore
At 19, Mozart was already an experienced opera composer. This lovely serenata, composed in 1775 for the visit of the Archduke Maximilian Franz to Salzburg, is the crowning work of his apprenticeship. Its pastoral mood is enhanced with a number of felicitous characterizations, and it overflows with musical invention. While the shepherd-king Aminta’s rondo, "L'amerò, sarò costante" (I will love her and be constant), with its seductive violin obbligato, has been recorded on several Mozart recital discs, there are plenty of other treasures lying hidden in this rarely performed score. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra has already performed the piece to great acclaim at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival in 2003, and its revival here features a first-rate cast, including Lisa Saffer as Aminta and Heidi Grant Murphy as Elisa.

Sept. 22, 8 p.m., Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Sept. 27, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; Sept. 28, 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto; $30-$72, (415) 392-4400, www.philarmonia.org. (M.Z.)

Mahler's Song of the Earth
One of the S.F. Symphony's best offerings in the fall is its first, Das Lied von der Erde, Gustav Mahler's extraordinary symphony/song cycle. With Stuart Skelton and Mahler specialist Thomas Hampson joining Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, this should be a performance worthy to stand alongside the other musical feats in the Symphony's Mahler cycle. As an opener, the orchestra rolls out Mozart's brilliant Symphony No. 34 in C Major.

Sept. 26-29, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, $25-$125, (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org. (M.Z.)

Ives Quartet
It can't be all that often that Giuseppe Verdi's E-minor Quartet finds itself the most familiar item on a program, but so it happens in the Ives Quartet's enticing concerts of late September. The Verdi's companions on the Italian-themed program are Frank Bridge's 1905 First Quartet (written for a string quartet competition in Bologna) and Gian Francesco Malipiero's 1920 First Quartet, subtitled "Rispetti e Strambotti." The Malipiero is an exuberant, extravagantly colorful blast of a quartet, a piece whose obscurity is one of the quartet repertory's persistent puzzles.

Sept. 28, 8 p.m., St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; Sept. 30, 7 p.m., Le Petit Trianon Theater, San Jose; Oct. 7, 2 p.m., S.F. Conservatory of Music Concert Hall, San Francisco; (650) 224-7849/(415) 503-6275, $15-$25, www.ivesquartet.org. (M.D.T.)

Hopkinson Smith
One of the world’s great lutenists and a founding member of Jordi Savall’s Hespèrion XX comes to the Bay Area with a San Francisco Early Music Society program divided between the music of John Dowland and that of Francesco da Milano, a renowned 16th-century instrumentalist. Included on the program are Smith's own improvisations on dances from Francesco’s Fantasias.

Sept. 28, 8 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto; Sept. 29, 8 p.m., St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley; Sept. 30, 3 p.m., St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, San Francisco; $22-$25, (510) 528-1725, www.sfems.org. (M.Z.)

Hopkinson Smith

Photo by Naoya Ikegami

Philip Glass' 70th Birthday Party
Last year, minimalist Steve Reich turned 70, and now it's Glass' turn. The composer is being feted around the Bay Area this year. The party kicked off in August with the Cabrillo Festival's performance of Glass' Eighth Symphony (see review). Glass will appear in person and on the piano at San Francisco Performances on Sept. 28 along with Bang on a Can cellist Wendy Sutter, playing a rare recital of a range of chamber works. The celebration peaks with the blockbuster premiere of his new opera Appomattox on Oct. 5 (see item below). Then on Oct. 9 through Stanford Lively Arts is the West Coast premiere of his new song cycle, Book of Longing, already dubbed "audacious," for multiple singers and ensemble and with lyrics by the renowned, and famously depressed, folk musician Leonard Cohen. And the party rolls on at Stanford with Alarm Will Sound on Nov. 30 (see item below). Glass has moved far beyond mindless minimalism, as these concerts should attest.

Sept. 28, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, $30-$45, (415) 392-2545, www.performances.org; Oct. 9, 8 p.m., Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford, $35-$70, (650) 725-2787, www.livelyarts.stanford.edu. (M.B., L.H., and D.B.)

New Esterházy Quartet
The journey has already begun (see review), but the New Esterházy Quartet's two-year-long traversal of the complete string quartets of Joseph Haydn gets going in earnest this fall. The first program gives an idea of the variety about to be thrown our way: two of the jewel-like early quartet-divertimenti; an underplayed and masterly middle-period quartet (The Frog), in which Haydn manages to be intricate and whimsical at once; and his (justly popular) last completed quartet.

Sept. 29, 4 p.m., St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco, $10-$25, [email protected], www.newesterhazy.org. (M.D.T.)

New Esterházy Quartet

Symphony Silicon Valley
From the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters, lovers of Americana should be intrigued by the premiere of composer David Amram’s Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, leading off the season for Symphony Silicon Valley. Conductor Paul Polivnick will also direct the ever-fresh Sinfonietta by Leos Janáček, and the "Pastorale" Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Sept. 29, 8 p.m., Sept. 30, 2:30 p.m., California Theatre, San Jose, $35-$72, (408) 286-2600, www.symphonysiliconvalley.org. (J.D.)

Olga Borodina
This singer in the grand tradition brings her creamy mezzo-soprano and superb musical and vocal skills to Zellerbach Hall for a Cal Performances recital during the San Francisco Opera run of Saint-Saëns' Samson and Delilah, which features Borodina in the title role. In her recital, Borodina will essay songs by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, among other composers.

Sept. 30, 3 p.m., Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, $36-$48, (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu. (L.H.)

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October
Appomattox
Although he has left the resolutely avant-garde phase of his career behind, Philip Glass remains a vital and fascinating opera composer. San Francisco Opera premieres his 22nd opera, Appomattox, Oct. 5. This is Glass' second work with a libretto by English playwright Christopher Hampton and, like their first collaboration in 2005, Waiting for the Barbarians, Appomattox will be overtly political in its themes. Starting from the events leading up to the dramatic meeting of Lee and Grant, the opera traces the impact of racism and the end of the Civil War on the next 100 years of American history.

Oct. 5, 16, 20, 8 p.m.; Oct. 10, 18, 24, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 14, 2 p.m.; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, $15-$225, (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com. (M.Z.)

Voltaire and the French Enlightenment
Go back to school with two days of lectures, discussions, and musical examples about the Enlightenment at Humanities West. On Saturday at 2 p.m., San Francisco Opera Musical Administrator Kip Cranna will discuss opera and the Enlightenment, preceded by Katherine Heater, David Morris, and David Wilson playing a suite from Rameau.

Oct. 5, 8 p.m., Oct. 6, 10 a.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, $25-$200, (415) 391-9700, www.humanitieswest.org. (M.B.)

Turn of the Screw
This Benjamin Britten opera is commonly agreed to have the composer's most tautly constructed score. It is one of his richest, as well, with the colorfully orchestrated, gamelan-influenced world of the ghostly servant, Peter Quint, set against the twisty, unsettled chromatic lines of the Governess and her charges, Miles and Flora. Director Tom Dean and Oakland Opera Theater are resetting the action of this cryptic opera from the Essex country house of Bly to "a remote Louisiana plantation." But in this most interior of operas, it will be up to Anja Strauss, as the Governess, and her costars to bring the opera’s shattering climax alive.

Oct 5-14, 8 p.m. (Sunday at 2 p.m.), Oakland Metro Opera House, Oakland, $25, (510) 763-1146, www.oaklandopera.org. (M.Z.)

The Battleship Potemkin
In the same month in which the San Francisco Symphony will sync Prokofiev’s score to a showing of Alexander Nevsky, the Marin Symphony and its music director, Alasdair Neale, along with the Mill Valley Film Festival, offer you the rarer opportunity to see Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin (1925) combined with the music of Shostakovich. The score the Marin Symphony will play was created for the jubilee re-release of Eisenstein’s film in 1976. It was cobbled together from pieces of the composer’s symphonies (especially No. 11, The Year 1905). Is the resulting pastiche any better than Nikolai Kryuokov’s 1950 score for the film? Probably, but you be the judge.

Oct. 7, 9, 7:30 p.m., Marin Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael, $27-$65, (415) 479-8100, www.marinsymphony.org. (M.Z.)

Marin Symphony plays for fabled silent The Battleship Potemkin

Angela Hewitt
With singleminded dedication and superior artistry, Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt has completed her ambitious project to record all of J.S. Bach’s keyboard works. The recordings have been hailed by critics, and now Cal Performances offers the chance to hear her live in a complete traversal of The Well-Tempered Clavier over two days. If you think that might be too much of a good thing, she is also playing a third concert, partnered with cellist Daniel Müller-Schott in Bach’s gamba sonatas. She'll also give a master class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on Oct. 9 at 2 p.m.

Oct. 10-12, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, $42, (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu. (M.Z.)

Angela Hewitt and Daniel Müller-Schott

San Francisco Symphony
The Italian composer Luca Francesconi, dubbed in England "a master of harmony and color … a composer of highly expressive intent and forceful emotional impact," will be represented with his Cobalt, Scarlet: Two Colors of Dawn, which will lead off the San Francisco Symphony concerts of October 11 and 13. Ingrid Fliter will play the rarely performed Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2, and the massive Davies Symphony Hall organ will intone the theme made famous in the film Babe with Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3.

Oct. 11 and 13, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, $25-$125, (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org. (J.D.)

Miró Quartet
The ensemble brings its delicate and emotionally sensitive style to San Jose's Le Petit Trianon in Mozart’s Hoffmeister and Beethoven’s Razumovsky No. 1 Quartets, along with a newly commissioned work by composer Kevin Puts, whose chromatic but melodic music has been much heard locally.

Oct. 13, 8 p.m., Le Petit Trianon, San Jose, $25-$40, (408) 286-5111, www.sjchambermusic.org. (D.B.)

Santa Rosa Symphony and Bruno Ferrandis
The first full season of the Santa Rosa Symphony under new Music Director Bruno Ferrandis will begin with live-sequenced video projections of NASA images to accompany Holst’s The Planets. Although Ferrandis says he’s "hoping to intrigue a younger audience," his irrepressible energy will undoubtedly create a younger audience by lopping a few years off the ages of older patrons as they hear his rendition of this solar system classic, along with the mystic Olivier Messiaen’s Un Sourire (A Smile) and Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer (soloist to be announced).

Oct. 13, 15, 8 pm, Oct. 14, 3 p.m., Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, Santa Rosa, $27-$50, (707) 546-8742, www.santarosasymphony.com. (J.D.)

Bruno Ferrandis

St. Lawrence String Quartet
The quartet offers a tasty and challenging Stanford Lively Arts program in which it is easy to imagine the group's nervy high-spiritedness paying off dramatically but differently three times over. Alongside Beethoven's A-Minor Quartet (Op. 132) are John Adams' 1994 John's Book of Alleged Dances and one of the more fantastically outré of the Haydn quartets, Op. 54/2.

Oct. 14, 2:30 p.m., Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford, $22-$44, (650)725-2787, www.livelyarts.stanford.edu. (M.D.T.)

Pathways to the Enlightenment
MusicSources, a cozy home for early music lovers in Berkeley, is presenting a promising series of lectures and performances all year long on an Enlightenment theme. Highlights of the fall include Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's Nicholas McGegan, who will discuss Paris opera during Rameau's time on Oct. 14; rarely performed works by C.P.E. Bach for harpsichord and fortepiano on Oct. 26; and UC Berkeley musicologist and bassoonist Kate van Orden, who will lead singers and instrumentalists in Ballet de la Délivrance de Renaud, a court ballet from 1617.

Beginning Oct. 14; times, prices, and locations vary; (510) 528-1685, www.musicsources.org. (M.B.)

Clerestory
The professional men's chorus follows up on its stellar debut season last year with promises of riches to come. The program in October will loosely tie into the Appomattox premiere over at San Francisco Opera, with a concert of music from 19th- and 20th-century American composers, including Copland, Ives, and Rorem, as well as new arrangements Clerestory has done of Barber's solo songs. Also included will be Civil War-era songs, Appalachian melodies, and Shaker and shape-note part-songs by William Billings and others. And look for early and modern motets, songs, and carols for Advent and Christmas Nov. 30-Dec. 1, with more details available soon.

Oct. 19, 8 p.m., St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Berkeley; Oct. 21, 7 p.m., St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco; $8-$15, www.clerestory.org. (M.B.)

Oakland Ballet Company
Ronn Guidi, or rather the Ronn Guidi Foundation for the Performing Arts, has resurrected the Oakland Ballet Company, which presented his Nutcracker last year. In its inaugural performance, with members of the Oakland East Bay Symphony conducted by Music Director Michael Morgan, the new company offers Bolero (Marc Wilde), Afternoon of a Faun (Vaslav Nijinsky), Trois Gymnopedies (Ronn Guidi), and Carnaval d’Aix (Guidi).

Oct. 20, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Paramount Theater, Oakland, $15-$50, (415) 370-9638, www.rgfpa.prg. (M.Z.)

Handel: For the Duke of Chandos
The California Bach Society takes to the other side of the street, presenting three of the magnificent anthems that Handel wrote in 1717-1718 for the Duke’s private chapel.

Oct. 19, 8 p.m., St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco; Oct. 20, 8 p.m., All Saints Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; Oct. 21, 4 p.m., St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Berkeley; $10-$25, (415) 262-0272, www.calbach.org. (M.Z.)

Talich Quartet
For many chamber-music listeners, the name is likely still associated with the much-lauded 1970s recordings of the Beethoven quartets, but the membership of the Talich Quartet turned over completely in the mid-to-late 1990s, and the current quartet is a much younger ensemble. A brasher and more impetuous one, too, to judge by recent recordings, but one in which the old Talich's intelligence and subtlety persist in a sort of family likeness. (The current first violinist, Jan Talich Jr., is the son of the older quartet's founder and violist.) The Music at Kohl program — of Mozart, Janáček, and Mendelssohn — ought to provide a good overview of what the ensemble can do.

Oct. 21, 7 p.m., Kohl Mansion, Burlingame, $20-$42, (650) 762-1130, www.musicatkohl.org. (M.D.T.)

Talich Quartet

Viva Italia!
The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presents a tribute to the nonoperatic side of Italian music. Pieces by Berio, Scelsi, and Sciarrino share the bill with a new work by young composer Luca Antignani (winner of the 2005 Barlow Award), and the winner of LCCE’s Composition Contest, Bruno Ruviaro. Oh, and there's a Vivaldi string trio, too.

Oct. 25, 8 p.m., Throckmorton Theater, Mill Valley; Oct. 29, 8 p.m., Green Room, San Francisco, $15-$20, (415) 642-8054, www.chambermusicpartn.org. (M.Z.)

Music From Hamburg, 1607
Magnificat re-creates the musical celebration surrounding the rededication of St. Gertrude’s Chapel in Hamburg in the year 1607. With the aid of the Sex Chordae Consort of Viols, the Whole Noyse wind band, vocal soloists, two organists, and a theorbist, the group will perform a program that weaves together the full range of Lutheran music of the time, including a set of splendid polychoral motets.

Oct. 26, 8 p.m., All Saints Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; Oct. 27, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Berkeley; Oct. 28, 4 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco; $12-$28, (415) 979-4500, www.magnificatbaroque.org. (M.Z.)

Evensong for All Hallows
Todd Jolly, music director of San Francisco Renaissance Voices, has a knack for entertaining and imaginative programming, and the group's upcoming "All Hallows" concert is no exception. The Harp Trio Trillium joins SFRV for a concert of songs of death and sorrow, featuring Morley's Dirge Anthems, Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary, and harp music from the British Isles. It's likely there will a surprise or two in store, as well, and maybe costumes.

Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m., Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church, San Francisco; Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m., All Saints Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; $12-$15, (415) 664-2543/(650) 322-4528, www.sfrv.org. (C.G.)

Emerson Quartet
Even committed fans of the Brahms quartets (as I am) might find the upcoming San Francisco Performances program, consisting of all three, a tad strenuous. But if anyone can make it work, the Emerson Quartet likely can. The Emersons have the intellectual and physical stamina for the project, as well as a sound whose combination of heft and transparency suits Brahms well.

Oct. 28, 7 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, $30-$45, (415) 398-6449, www.performances.org. (M.D.T.)

Emerson Quartet

Photo by Mitch Jenkins

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November
Ragas by John Cage
Other Minds, in association with the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco and the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, present dhrupad vocalist Amelia Cuni in John Cage’s 18 Microtonal Ragas, as well as "Solo for Voice 58" and other selections from Song Books (1970). Cuni, an Italian-German singer trained in both European and Indian musical traditions (like Cage), triumphed with these works in Germany in 2006. This may be the most perfect match of musicians and material this season. If you’re intrigued, grab this chance — you won’t get another opportunity to hear these pieces live for a long time.

Nov. 2, 8 p.m., St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, $25, (415) 934-8134, www.otherminds.org. (M.Z.)

Volti
The superb chamber chorus Volti, led by Robert Geary, is one of the stars of the Bay Area's new-music firmament, and the first concert of the season is no exception to its always-inventive programming. The chorus performs newly commissioned works by Stacy Garrop, Richard Festinger, and Alan Peterson, as well as premieres by Wayne Peterson and Howard Hersh. A set by Morten Lauridsen rounds out the program.

Nov. 3, 8 p.m., St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Berkeley; Nov. 4, 4 p.m., St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco; $20-$50, (415) 771-3352, www.voltisf.org. (L.H.)

San Francisco Symphony
An unusual opportunity to hear Brazilian music not composed by Heitor Villa-Lobos occurs when composer Jose de Almeida Prado’s Symphonic Variations is performed in two San Francisco Symphony concerts. Joining Almeida Prado’s piece on the program will be the sprightly and all-too-rarely heard Concerto for Two Pianos by the Czech Bohuslav Martinu. The final work on the program, the Dvořák "New World" Symphony, may send those loving only unfamiliar works goin' home early.

Nov. 8 and 10, 8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, $25-$125, (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org. (J.D.)

Zehetmair Quartet
The quartet founded by Thomas Zehetmair a bit over a decade ago is of necessity a part-time ensemble, but somehow the intermittency of the group's bouts of performance has made it not cautious, but, on the contrary, flamboyantly, recklessly imaginative. The Zehetmairs' recently released recording of Hindemith's Op. 22 Quartet is jaw-dropping: a harrowing and exhilaratingly wild ride. The Hindemith is there on the quartet's Cal Performances program, together with Schumann's First Quartet (subject of another justly celebrated Zehetmair recording) and one of Mozart's early "Milanese" quartets.

Nov. 11, 5 p.m., Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley, $46, (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu. (M.D.T.)

Zehetmair Quartet

S.F. Symphony Youth Orchestra
Tessa Seymour, winner of the Orchestra’s concerto competition, will be the soloist in Ernst Bloch’s Schelomo, a piece that will test her artistic maturity, as well as her technical skill. Gershwin’s Cuban Overture and Schönberg's arrangement of the Brahms G-Minor Piano Quartet complete the program. Benjamin Shwartz conducts.

Nov. 11, 2 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, $12-$30, (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org. (M.Z.)

New Century Chamber Orchestra
Still on its epic search for a new concertmaster, NCCO brings more great names to the Bay Area this fall. Margaret Batjer, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, has put together a program of 18th-century concerti grossi, including Geminiani, Handel, J.S. Bach, and his son C.P.E., and ending with Haydn's Symphony No. 8, "Le Soir."

Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m., Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael; Nov. 15, 8 p.m., St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley; Nov. 16, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto; Nov. 17, 8 p.m., Florence Gould Theater, Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; $25-$42, (415) 357-1111, www.ncco.org. (M.Z.)

AVE (Artists' Vocal Ensemble)
These splendid professional early-music specialists (see review) examine the cross-pollination of creativity that occurred with the political marriage of Prince Philip of Spain to Queen Mary I of England. In addition to uniting the two Catholic countries in a political alliance, the marriage brought together the two epicenters of choral music at the time. AVE is joined by a consort of Renaissance instruments.

Nov. 16, 8 p.m., St. Ignatius Church, San Francisco; Nov. 17, 8 p.m., St. Mark"s Episcopal Church, Berkeley; Nov. 18, 5.30 p.m., Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, Lafayette; $10-$25; www.ave-music.org. (L.H.)

Redwood Symphony
The first-rate community orchestra undertakes Stravinsky’s stark Symphony of Psalms with Peninsula Cantare and the Skyline Concert Choir. The concert also includes Elgar’s Sea Pictures, Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No. 1, and a brass fanfare by the unjustly little-known contemporary composer Eric Ewazen.

Nov. 18, 3 p.m., Cañada College Main Theatre, Redwood City, $10-$25, (650) 366-6872, www.redwoodsymphony.org. (D.B.)

San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
The ensemble presents Entrelacs (Interlace) by the French composer Yan Maresz; four works by Swedish composers, including Tryffelhymn (Truffle Hymn) by the ever-arresting Anders Hillborg; and the premiere of Shimmer Songs, "inspired by Aboriginal ideas about parallel spiritual realities," by the Australian Liza Lim. The experience promises to be as intriguing as the title of another of the Swedish works, Calm like a bomb, by Jesper Nordin.

Nov. 19, 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, San Francisco, $27, (415) 978-2787, www.sfcmp.org. (J.D.)

Voices of America’s Future
The seventh-annual youth-chorus extravaganza features many of the Bay Area's outstanding girls and boys choirs and Carmina Slovenica, a girl's choir from Slovenia, all performing for free.

Nov. 28, 3 p.m., Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, free, (415) 749-6355, www.gracecathedral.org. (M.Z.)

Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony
The S.F. Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas pair Shostakovich's most popular symphony with the less-often-performed, but fascinating, From Jewish Folk Poetry, in a concert that seems designed to pair the public (ironic or not) face of the composer with a more interior side. Shostakovich kept these song settings in a drawer until long after their composition.

Nov. 28, 30, Dec. 1, 8 p.m.; Nov. 29, 2 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, $25-$125, (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org. (M.Z.)

Tallis Scholars
The great British early-music chorus, Tallis Scholars, returns to the Bay Area with a Cal Performances program of music for the Virgin Mary. While there's some Josquin on the concert, the other composers — Lheritier, Jean Mouton, Crecquillon, and Gallus — are less-frequently performed. You can hear the ensemble in two venues: at First Congregational Church and in the Gothic splendor of Grace Cathedral. A pre-performance talk, free for ticket holders, is scheduled for 7 p.m. in both locations.

Nov. 30, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Dec. 1, 8 p.m., Grace Cathedral, San Francisco; $48, (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu. (L.H.)

Tallis Scholars

Alarm Will Sound
The brash, inventive new-music group comes to Stanford Lively Arts to give the premiere of John Adams' Son of Chamber Symphony. The concert also includes two of the Conlon Nancarrow Studies for Player Piano that the group performed in Berkeley last March, Michael Gordon’s Yo, Shakespeare, and music by Aphex Twin, a techno group. If you're going, be sure to invite someone hip to tag along.

Nov. 30, 8 p.m., Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford, $16-$36, (650) 723-2551, www.livelyarts.stanford.edu. (M.Z.)

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December
Takács Quartet, Joyce Yang
Another season, another Takács Quartet concert sold out months in advance (well, actually, two of them, counting the other next spring). Still, this is a recital worth getting on the waiting list for — not only because the Geraldine-Walther-era Takács has done nothing so far but improve from an already impossibly high baseline standard, but because this time the Quartet comes bearing something besides Beethoven. Bartók's Fifth Quartet is a particularly exciting prospect; also on the program are Haydn (Op. 74/1, an underplayed and interesting choice) and Schumann (the Piano Quintet, with 2005 Van Cliburn Competition medalist Joyce Yang).

Dec. 2, 3 p.m., Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley, (510) 642-9988, sold out, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu. (M.D.T.)

Takács Quartet

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
PBO’s Christmas season concert this year features Heinrich Schütz’s Weihnachtshistorie (The Christmas Story, 1660, published 1664). This beautiful and much-recorded late work is a great example of the Lutheran oratorio about 60 years before J.S. Bach’s contributions to the genre. The Evangelist’s recitation alternates with solos, trios, and full polychoral motets, but Schütz’s intimate retelling wastes no time with grand celebratory gestures. In fact, trumpets and trombones are reserved for the earthly kings. Here angels speak confidingly, and their musical language is precise and exact. Guest conductor Konrad Junghänel also conducts works by Johann Rosenmüller and Johann Kuhnau.

Dec. 7, 8 p.m., First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 8, 8 p.m., Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Dec. 12, 8 p.m., Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church, Lafayette; Dec. 14, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; $30-$72, (415) 392-4400, www.philharmonia.org. (M.Z.)

Mariusz Kwiecień
Mariusz Kwiecień's magnetic stage presence and beautiful voice made him a sensational Don Giovanni at the San Francisco Opera in June. While the baritone isn't on the company's roster for the upcoming season, he's coming to town for a Cal Performances recital. The program hasn't been announced yet, but given the imagination and detail he brings to the operatic stage, the concert is sure to be rewarding.

Dec. 9, 3 p.m., Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley, $42, (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu. (L.H.)

Symphony Silicon Valley
Gary Hoffman impressed in San Jose last year with a highly personal performance of a Shostakovich cello concerto. Now he returns to Symphony Silicon Valley to play Saint-Saëns’ Concerto No. 1 and Fauré’s Elégie. The Mussorgsky-Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition and Roberto Sierra’s Fandango are also on the program. Guillermo Figueroa conducts.

Dec. 8, 8 p.m., Dec. 9, 2:30 p.m., California Theatre, San Jose, prices not yet available, (408) 286-2600, www.symphonysiliconvalley.org. (D.B.)

Gary Hoffman

Schola Cantorum
The highly skilled singers of Schola Cantorum San Francisco, under the lucid direction of John Renke, turn their attention to Tomás Luis de Victoria’s masterpiece, the Missa O magnum mysterium, which is based on his famous Christmas motet. More Renaissance magic awaits in the second half of the SFEMS concert, featuring music by Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Jean Mouton, and Orlando di Lasso.

Dec. 14, 8 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto; Dec. 15, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley; Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m., St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, San Francisco, $25, (510) 528-1725, www.sfems.org. (M.Z.)

Berkeley Akademie Ensemble
The new Kent Nagano-directed offshoot of the Berkeley Symphony gives its debut concert with some Bach (two of the Brandenburgs), Beethoven (the "Grosse Fuge"), and Richard Strauss' lovely Metamorphosen. Symphony subscribers only.

Dec. 19, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church, Berkeley, $108 (for two concerts), (510) 841-2800, www.berkeleysymphony.org. (M.Z.)

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David Bratman is a librarian who lives with his lawfully wedded soprano and a wall full of symphony recordings.