The endless options of the Internet enable hours of virtual wanderlust; but don’t let this faux-freedom allow you to forget the orchestras, ensembles and assorted outfits making beautiful music in our own backyard. (And sometimes theirs.)
Below, find a short stack of classical offerings with a short commute to your ear buds.
And 2020, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. You’ve never looked so good in hindsight.
The indefatigable orchestra forges forth into 2021, continuing its series of free Sunday streaming chamber concerts that I’d call uncategorizable if they weren’t so . . . categorizable. Let’s just go with “musically diverse.”
On Jan. 3, they’ll present a program of “Music That Brings Wonder,” inspired by Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” and featuring works by Mendelssohn, Haydn, Caroline Shaw, Jessie Montgomery and Sergei Prokofiev. On Jan. 17, a celestially tilted program of “Music That Travels Through Space” accompanies works by Alistair Coleman, Lili Boulanger, Osvaldo Golijov, Manuel Ponce, Luise Adolpha Le Beau, Carson Cooman and Claude Debussy with images and videos from NASA.
Not to be confused with Dumbarton Oaks, Georgetown’s Dumbarton Concerts continues its virtually adapted 43rd season of streamed concerts and live artist Q&A sessions. On Jan. 16, Dumbarton Onstage presents a special 20-year anniversary program from the Heritage Signature Chorale, the stalwart D.C. chorus led by Stanley J. Thurston and committed to the preservation and performance of African-American choral music.
On Jan. 30, as part of its “Notes From Home” series of home-recorded performances, the Grammy-nominated PUBLIQuartet presents “Groove On” — an unexpected exploration of the influence of Bach (specially his solo cello suites) on modern notions of groove and drone. Performance times vary. dumbartonconcerts.org.
Vocal Arts DC
On Jan. 21 (and through Feb. 1), you can hear the world premiere of new works by two powerhouse composers — Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw and MacArthur “genius grant” recipient Tyshawn Sorey — commissioned by Vocal Arts DC and presented as part of “Recital No. 1: MASS,” a 75-minute recital performed by the dynamic bass-baritone Davóne Tines and pianist Adam Nielsen.
This unorthodox liturgical setting juxtaposes Shaw and Sorey’s new works alongside arias by Bach and selections from such oft-overlooked 20th century composers as Margaret Bonds, Julius Eastman and Moses Hogan (as well as Tines’s own arrangement of a piece by Dutch-English composer Igee Dieudonné). “I’m basically queering the mass,” Tines writes, “in the broad sense of bending it to my own understanding.”
Originally intended to premiere last March, just as venues were closing down, this filmed version (taped in October at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City) will be available for a limited time as a pay-per-view stream. Don’t miss this one. vocalartsdc.org.
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
If you haven’t been watching the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s ongoing concert/doc series “BSO Sessions” — now 10 episodes deep — January’s a fine time to start. This month brings three new installments to the small screen: “Ripple Effect” (premiering Jan. 6) finds composer David Diamond exploring grief, Ravel’s harp concerto and the influence of both on his “Elegy in Memory of Maurice Ravel” — and discovering similar reverberations between Benjamin Britten and Arvo Pärt.
“Forgotten Voices” (premiering Jan. 13) features students, artists and scholars participating in the BSO OrchKids program “Queens Unseen: Royals Without Crowns,” as well as the work of Black composers including Scott Joplin, Hannah Kendall, Carlos Simon, James Lee III and Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. And “Twelve” (premiering Jan. 27) investigates connections between pop and classical via the music of Bryce Dessner, Jonny Greenwood and, one more time for good luck, Caroline Shaw — the very same Shaw piece (“Entr’acte”) the NatPhil performs on Jan. 3. Episodes are available individually as pay-per-view streams ($10) or as part of a monthly “all-access” plan ($20). Wednesdays at 8 p.m. bsomusic.org.
On Jan. 17, it presents a selection of performances from the CMS archives featuring clarinetist David Shifrin and pianist Gloria Chien (as well as a short documentary on Shifrin). The masterful pairing take on what Shifrin has called “perhaps the most perfect piece of chamber music ever written,” Mozart’s “Quintet in A major for Clarinet, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello” (K. 581) as well as Duke Ellington’s silken “Clarinet Lament,” a.k.a. “Barney’s Lament” (after clarinetist Barney Bigard) and Luigi Bassi’s “Concert Fantasia on Themes from Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto.’” The free stream is available until Jan. 24. wolftrap.org.