Mozart is 250, Shostakovich 100— And Joe Volpe Says Goodbye

030606 article spring michener Mozart is 250, Shostakovich 100— And Joe Volpe Says GoodbyeThe classical-music world loves nothing more than a great composer’s anniversary. This year, the honors go to Mozart (his 250th) and Shostakovich, who’d be turning 100 had he survived his tormenters in the former Soviet Union.

In the yearlong burble of Mozart performances, nothing is likely to outshine the strobe-lit pianism of Mitsuko Uchida in an all-Mozart recital at Carnegie Hall on May 11. The Russian birthday boy is being celebrated in more explosive fashion. Valery Gergiev is heading to Avery Fisher Hall to kick off a cycle of all 15 of Shostakovich’s brooding, bombastic symphonies. The Kirov Orchestra plays the first two concerts (March 12 and 13); the Rotterdam Philharmonic steps in for the other two (April 9 and 10). On April 27 at Alice Tully Hall, the Emerson String Quartet launches a complete cycle of Shostakovich’s 15 quartets in the first of five concerts that will chart music’s most harrowing journey into the self.

Preceding the Shostakovich wallow is a lush fanfare by the Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, in three concerts at Avery Fisher (March 5-8) devoted mostly to Tchaikovsky. And on March 6, the Metropolitan Opera unveils a new production of the same composer’s Mazeppa, one of the few operas whose title character is a traitorous villain. Mr. Gergiev conducts an all-star cast of Mariinsky stalwarts; the sets, by George Tsypin (who designed the Met’s spectacular War and Peace and The Magic Flute), may get the biggest hand of the night.

Things are more buoyant over at Carnegie Hall, where, on March 18, the German baritone Thomas Quasthoff gives velvet voice to Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin. The following night in Zankel Hall, the pianist Richard Goode, the tenor Matthew Polenzani and the mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford offer a Schubertiade interrupted by the ghostly appearance of Leos Janácek’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared.

March also brings the tough-minded German maestro Christoph von Dohnányi to the New York Philharmonic in two programs of uncommon depth. The first (March 2-7) makes Elliott Carter’s dizzy Allegro Scorrevole the warmup act for Schumann’s more spaciously ordered Symphony No. 4 and Brahms’ Violin Concerto (with Frank Peter Zimmermann). The second program segues from Schubert’s sublime Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) to Bartók’s little shop of horrors, Bluebeard’s Castle, with Matthias Goerne as the bloody duke and Anne Sofie von Otter as his overly curious groupie (March 9-11).

Women gain the upper hand over war-crazed men in Mark Adamo’s new operatic setting of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, which is having its local premiere at New York City Opera on March 21. (Has anyone suggested a sexual boycott as a way out of Iraq?)

The Met is giving retiring general manager Joseph Volpe a fizzy sendoff with the last new production of his 16-year tenure—a staging by Otto Schenk of Donizetti’s comic masterpiece Don Pasquale, which opens on March 31. The fetching young lovers are sung by the fetching young superstars, soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Juan Diego Flórez.

At Easter, Bach’s two great Passions, the St. John and the St. Matthew, get widely different treatments—the former by the choir of men and boys at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, with a stellar group of early music soloists (April 4); the latter, at the shabby-chic Harvey Theater of the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Jonathan Miller’s celebrated, street-smart staging (6 performances, beginning April 8).

St. Ignatius Loyola’s Easter basket is well stocked with Arvo Pärt’s Stabat Mater, Handel’s Organ Concerto in G minor, and Bach’s cantata Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen (April 5). Riverside Church hosts a gala performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (The Resurrection) by the Estonian maestro Neeme Järvi, and an all-star team of players from the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and the Detroit and New Jersey Symphonies (April 11).

The biggest Easter bonanza—the Met’s production of Wagner’s Parsifal—shows up after the fact on May 12, with a tremendous cast including Ben Heppner, Thomas Hampson, René Pape and the blazing German singing actress Waltraud Meier as Kundry. As usual, maestro James Levine is likely to put the audience—and himself—into a trance.

Will the incomparable mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson—who’s cancelled most of her recent appearances because of back problems—be up to singing Mahler’s Rückert Lieder with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (Carnegie Hall, April 20) and The World in Flower, a new vocal and orchestral extravaganza written for her and the New York Philharmonic by her ardent husband, Peter Lieberson (Avery Fisher, May 25-27)? Fans of the most potent voice since Callas are holding their breath.