A recent on-line comment raised one of the most challenging questions I face in my job: How do you balance coverage of the local groups that are the life’s blood of the classical scene in the region with the big touring performers?
There is no right answer. There is no way to get all the coverage in the paper that those of us who love music would like to see. (And unfortunately, when you do run a review of one of the little groups, it often doesn’t get very many readers.) The problem is compounded by the fact that most performing arts events take place on the weekends, leading to a traffic jam of reviews -- dance, theater, pop and classical music -- all vying for place in Monday’s paper.
This means that I can assign at most four or five reviews for Monday’s paper, knowing that some of them will probably end up on line. So I have to pick the four or five of Friday’s and Saturday’s concerts. And when I say that there are more events happening in DC than ever, it’s because more and more, I find there are seven or eight review-worthy things happening in a single weekend. When I first got here in 2008, it wasn’t quite this hard.
To show you what I mean, I’m opening it up to you. Here are nine review-worthy concerts that are taking place this coming Friday and Saturday. If you knew you could only review four of them, or at most five, which ones would you cover, and why?
January 25 — Bang on a Can All-Stars at the Atlas. The Atlas is a local venue that’s done a great job of bringing nationally-recognized contemporary-music groups to DC. The Bang on a Can All-Stars have become veritable gray eminences of the alt-classical scene, an offshoot of the composers’ collaborative Bang on a Can, which has moved from maverick outsider status to winning Pulitzer Prizes.
January 25 — New Voices @ CUA. The Catholic University of America chapter of the Society of Composers and Great Noise Ensemble present a festival of new vocal music. Catholic University has a respectable music school, the Benjamin T. Rome school of Music, that we don’t cover as much as we might. They’ve made a particular specialty of musical theater and opera, and this four-concert, two-day festival is exclusively devoted to new vocal works.
January 25 — Steven Isserlis and Kirill Gerstein at the Barns at Wolf Trap. Isserlis is widely held to be among the best and most interesting cellists performing today, and Gerstein is an acclaimed soloist. Their program includes two Brahms sonatas and works by Liszt, Busoni, and Bartok.
January 26 — Brooklyn Rider at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue (WPAS). Brooklyn Rider is an excellent quartet of four innovative performers who explore new music and ways to combine it with the old. I called their album “Dominant Curve” one of the best of 2010.
January 26 — Lark Quartet at Dumbarton Church. The all-female quartet (does that even matter?) is performing Janacek’s “Intimate Letters” and the Daron Aric Hagen’s “Genji,” which he wrote for them and the koto player Yumi Korosawa. I reviewed them in a nearly identical program at the Freer in October, 2011.
January 26 — National Philharmonic at Strathmore. The conductor Miroslaw Jacek Blaszczyk and cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski headline a concert honoring Lutoslawski and Rostropovich: a notable local orchestra in a concert honoring a local hero (Rostropovich).
January 26 — “Lalla Roukh” by Opera Lafayette at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. Opera Lafayette has become more than a local group over the last 15 years, with a library of recordings and, recently, an appearance at Versailles. Its terrain is little-known French opera, though it’s expanded from the Baroque to more recent works like this opera-comique by Félicien David.
January 26 — The InSeries presents Mozart’s opera “La Clemenza di Tito.” This group is a mainstay of the local opera scene. Furthermore, there are multiple performances of this opera through February 3, so readers will actually have a chance to go see it.
January 26 — Ana Vidovic on Marlow Guitar Series. The Croatian guitar virtuoso returns for a second appearance on a beloved Washington series that we don’t review often enough.