As so often happens these days in Washington, this weekend saw a veritable cornucopia of performances — including no fewer than three world premieres, and one piece presented the day after its world premiere. The world premieres were John Tavener’s “Three Hymns of George Herbert” from the City Choir of Washington and Shenandoah Conservatory Choir; Donald Crockett’s “Dawn Dance” from the 21st Century Consort, and Urban Arias’s presentation of the opera “Paul’s Case,” by Gregory Spears. And “Gabriel’s Guide to the 48 States,” which Gabriel Kahane wrote for the chamber group Orpheus, came to the Clarice Smith Center the night after its world premiere at Dartmouth. (Links lead to reviews by me, Joan Reinthaler, and Roger Catlin.)
In addition, the Virginia Opera brought the Marriage of Figaro to Fairfax; the violinist Ray Chen played at Dumbarton Oaks; the German choir Calmus dazzled in Alexandria; the Freer presented excerpts of Handel’s Belshazzar; Jean-Efflam Bavouzet played at the Phillips Collection; and the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra played Mozart. And that’s just what we reviewed. (Not to mention the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Keller Quartet, and Stile Antico last week.)
With all of this going on, it’s small wonder that presenters seem to be having a harder time selling tickets. Contemporary music lovers are already a subset of the mainstream clasical audience; on Saturday, they had to choose between three different concerts.
This isn’t a bad thing: it’s testimony to what I perceive as a new wealth of performances here. Every season, it seems, there are more and more interesting concerts. When I got to D.C. in 2008, I was always pretty clear about what I wanted to hear on a given night; this season, I’ve often found myself making tough choices between two or three performances. My impression of the audience, too, has shifted. My initial feeling was that the classical audience here tended to be somewhat conservative, but very large and very passionate; now, my sense is that there’s a wider range of concerts, but audiences are smaller.
What do you think? Do you agree that more is going on here these days than in the past? Do you notice more contemporary music being played, or is it about the same as it always was? Do you find yourself having to choose between two concerts in a single night? And if you had to pick one of the four new works that was performed this weekend, which one would, or did, you go to?
Above: An excerpt of “The Filthy Habit” by Thomas Pasatieri, which Urban Arias, a company devoted to contemporary opera, staged in 2012. This weekend, they offered the world premiere of “Paul’s Case” by Gregory Spears, based on the story by Willa Cather (runs through April 28) — one of three world premieres offered in the area this weekend.