If you missed the December premiere of Heartbeat Opera’s “Breathing Free” — a stirring “visual album” that builds on the company’s 2018 collaboration with 100 incarcerated singers from six prison choirs — you have two more opportunities this month as the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, Calif., presents its virtual West Coast premiere with live streams and online panels on Feb. 10 and Feb. 13. “Breathing Free” unfolds as 45-minutes of intertwined videos featuring music from Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” spirituals and works by Harry T. Burleigh, Florence Price, Langston Hughes, Anthony Davis and Thulani Davis. thebroadstage.com.
D.C.’s IN Series has its own highly bookmarkable digital program for Black History Month. Stanley J. Thurston’s Heritage Signature Chorale will present “A Concert Highlighting Women Composers and Black Composers” on Friday. And on Feb. 19, it will present “The Reaction,” a presentation of works by Black composers and poets paired with a virtual guided tour of five local sites “essential to telling the story of African Americans in our nation’s capital.” Both programs will remain online through the month — as will the subscribers-only recital from bass-baritone Carl DuPont, pianist Gregory Thompson and actor KenYatta Rogers from Feb. 1. inseries.org.
One last addition to your Black History Month listening list: In November, I was lucky enough to see a concert (just realized I could stop the sentence there) by baritone Will Liverman, who is set to star in the Met’s 2021 premiere of Terrence Blanchard and Kasi Lemmons’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” the first opera by a Black composer to appear on the Met stage in its 140-year history. On Feb. 14, he’ll release “Dreams of a New Day — Songs by Black Composers,” an album featuring works by Burleigh, Margaret Bonds, Thomas Kerr, Robert Owens and Leslie Adams, as well as contemporary works by Damien Sneed and Shawn E. Okpebholo — including the world-premiere recording of Shawn E. Okpebholo’s devastatingly beautiful “Two Black Churches.” cedillerecords.org.
Phillips Collection Sunday Concerts
The Phillips Collection has an 80th anniversary music season to celebrate and is forging forth with a strong digital season of free Sunday concerts. On Feb. 14, it presents pianist David Greilsammer performing his “Labyrinth” program, an appropriately titled maze of short piano works anchored by Leos Janacek’s “On An Overgrown Path” and including pieces by Ligeti, Satie, Crumb, Beethoven, Bach and others. On Feb. 28 in partnership with the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Belgium, it presents violinist Stella Chen and pianist Albert Cano Smit playing a program of sonatas by Beethoven and Strauss — Violin Sonata in E-flat Major (Op. 12, No. 3) and Violin Sonata in E-flat Major (Op. 18), respectively — as well as Eugène Ysaÿe’s arrangement of the sixth of Saint-Saëns’s “Études for piano” (Op. 52). Were it not for this blasted pandemic, we might have enjoyed the pairing of pianist/composer Aaron Diehl and percussionist/composer Tyshawn Sorey this month — a date now postponed to fall 2021. (In the meantime, Sorey’s “Save the Boys” will receive its premiere from Opera Philadelphia on Feb. 12, performed by countertenor John Holiday). phillipscollection.org for full programs and streams.
And lastly, as you well know, 2021 marks the 336th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, and you’re probably wondering two things: What’s the wacky Latinate term for this occasion? (No idea but stay tuned for his big sesquarcentennial in 2035!) And how should one best ring it in? That’s a very personal question, but starting Feb. 12, I’ll be spending 30 minutes a week with “30 Bach.” It’s a 15-episode podcast, three years in the making, by pianist, law student and lifelong Bach-lover Lowry Yankwich, devoted to unpacking each of the composer’s timeless Goldberg Variations through an all-star cast of guest interpreters, including Simone Dinnerstein, the Borromeo String Quartet, Imani Winds, Hie-Yon Choi and Mahan Esfahani. Throughout, the Variations’ mystery and mastery are filtered through various lenses. The Post’s Philip Kennicott — author of “Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning” — examines the music as a source of comfort, while jazz pianist Dan Tepfer digs into it as fuel (and foundation) for improvisation. thirtybach.com.