Fall Arts Preview: Top 10 Classical Concerts and Operas

What we’re most looking forward to in the concert halls

'Anna Nicole.'
‘Anna Nicole.’

New York City Opera
Anna Nicole

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Sept. 17–28
Tragedy, rebellion, star-crossed lovers and ill timing are just a few of the ingredients that typically lend themselves to what’s widely accepted as good opera. And all are found in ample quantities in the life of Anna Nicole Smith, the Playboy playmate, reality-TV star and actress—if that’s the word—whose life serves as inspiration for this City Opera production at BAM. Anna Nicole features a libretto by Richard Thomas (co-creator of Jerry Springer: The Opera) and music composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage. The production is doing at least one thing right: As arts institutions around the globe struggle to attract younger audiences, it might not be a bad idea to infuse some modern pop culture into the mix. Take, for instance, the extended out-takes from Smith’s 1996 action flick Skyscraper, which have pulled in over 650,000 views on YouTube.

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The Juilliard School: Violin Competition Finals
Paul  Hall
Sept. 30
A Juilliard education, expensive to pay for and difficult to get access to, is no guarantee of a successful career in music. The competition is tough, but the rewards can be sweet. You can check out a slice of that pressure—and, of course, hear some terrific performances—at the school’s violin competition finals. The winner earns a slot performing with the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra on October 21, conducted by Alan Gilbert.

New York Philharmonic
Beethoven Symphony No. 9
Lincoln Center
Avery Fisher Hall
Oct. 3–9
Mark-Anthony Turnage is having a busy fall in New York. His Anna Nicole is being produced at BAM, and meanwhile, at the New York Philharmonic, music director Alan Gilbert will conduct the U.S. premiere of Mr. Turnage’s Frieze along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The program is a partnership with the U.K.’s Royal Philharmonic Society, which commissioned Beethoven’s symphony in 1817. Frieze was commissioned and written as a response to Beethoven’s symphony.  “I’ve been obsessed with Beethoven from the age of eight,” Mr. Turnage told the RPS. “What a joy, therefore, to be asked by the RPS to write a piece inspired by Beethoven’s great symphony.”

London Symphony Orchestra
Lincoln Center
Avery Fisher Hall
Oct. 20–21
Grammy winning pianist Emanuel Ax performs two dates with the London Symphony Orchestra as part of a paired program—each featuring a Mozart piano concerto and a Shostakovich symphony. Sunday afternoon brings the Piano Concerto No. 9, K.271 (“Jenamy”) and Symphony No. 4 in C minor, and the following night is the Piano Concerto No. 27, K.595 and the Symphony No. 15 in A major. Bernard Haitink conducts.

Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Carnegie Hall
Oct. 23
Orchestra of Saint Luke’s Principal Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado returns to open the group’s Carnegie Hall season. Tenor Ian Bostridge and horn player Stewart Rose perform Britten’s song cycle Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. Also on the program are Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major. Mr. Bostridge wraps up several New York performances of Britten works at this concert—less than a month away from the composer’s centenary on November 22. Britten composed the bulk of the Serenade in 1943, with its first performance coming late in that year with longtime Britten collaborator Peter Pears as tenor soloist.

A Night With András Schiff, Bach & Beethoven
Buttenwieser Hall
Oct. 29
András Schiff continues working his way through the keyboard works of J.S. Bach. A well-known advocate for Bach’s keyboard works, Mr. Schiff’s The Bach Project performances have been performed in conjunction with the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall and, now, with this concert, the 92Y. The program features repertoire from Bach’s The Goldberg Variations and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, as well as a lecture analyzing Bach’s influence on Beethoven.

Minnesota Orchestra
Carnegie Hall
Nov. 2–3
The Minnesota Orchestra comes to Carnegie Hall. We think. Amid ongoing labor disputes, and an announcement from management that making the dates would require a contract agreement by September 15 (well after this publication’s print date), by the time you read this, the matter should be settled. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, because there is a lot at stake. If the Carnegie Hall concerts don’t happen, Music Director Osmo Vänskä has said that he will resign. That would be a real shame. The scheduled program is all Sibelius both nights, with En Saga, the violin concerto and Symphony No. 1 the first night and Pohjola’s Daughter, Selected Songs and Symphony No. 2 the following afternoon. Violinist Hilary Hahn and mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter are the performances’ respective soloists.

White Light Festival: Tallis Scholars
Alice Tully Hall
Starr Theater
Nov. 16
The Lincoln Center White Light Festival, which bills itself as focusing on “music’s capacity to illuminate the many dimensions of our interior lives” (whatever that means), returns for a fourth season with performances that are well worth attending no matter what the festival purports to be about. Case in point: the Tallis Scholars performance at Alice Tully Hall. The group, which prides itself on bringing the vocal Renaissance repertoire to wider audiences, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The program includes works by Taverner, Tallis, Nico Muhly and Arvo Pärt.

Philadelphia Orchestra and Hélène Grimaud 
Carnegie Hall
Dec. 6
Pianist Hélène Grimaud returns to Carnegie Hall in a performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, now in his second season with the orchestra. Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique make up the program. Ms. Grimaud’s new CD of both Brahms piano concertos will have been released by the time she performs the second work in the Carnegie Hall engagement, sandwiched between several at the orchestra’s Verizon Hall home in Philadelphia. Hopefully she’ll have time to stop by the Wolf Conservation Center that she founded in upstate New York in 1996.

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Carnegie Hall
Dec. 7
Works by Fine, Mozart and Handel take center stage as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra returns to Carnegie Hall for its second engagement of the season. The 12 concerti grossi contained in Op. 6 have been a central part of the group’s repertoire throughout its 40-year history. Swedish clarinetist Martin Fröst performs Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, one of the composer’s final works.

Fall Arts Preview: Top 10 Classical Concerts and Operas