Can’t-Miss Classical Concerts, Choral Shows, and Orchestral Performances in December

See Messiahs, British carols, Yo-Yo Ma, and more in Washington this month.

By: Sudip Bose

Holiday-Themed Performances

The Barnes and Hampton Celtic Consort—composed of Linn Barnes and Allison Hampton—presents candlelit performances of Celtic Christmas music at the Dumbarton Church. Joining the duo are flutist Joseph Cunliffe, percussionist Steve Bloom, and narrator Robert Aubry Davis. Sponsored by Dumbarton Concerts, December 1, 2, 8, and 9.

The Washington Bach Consort performs a program of cantatas that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote for the Advent and Christmas seasons. At the National Presbyterian Church, December 1.

Georg Friedrich Handel’s Messiah is performed at the National Cathedral, with a period orchestra and the cathedral’s boys’, girls’, and men’s choirs. Michael McCarthy conducts, with soloists Gillian Keith (soprano), Julia Mintzer (mezzo-soprano), Rufus Muller (tenor), and Nathan Berg (bass). December 7, 8, and 9.

The National Philharmonic presents its Messiah on three nights, as well: December 8, 22, and 23 at the Music Center at Strathmore. Stan Engebretson conducts, with soprano Danielle Talamantes, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Wór, tenor Matthew Smith, bass Kevin Deas, and the National Philharmonic Chorale.

On December 9, the New Dominion Chorale presents the three cantatas that form the basis of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio —in artistic director Thomas Beveridge’s English translation. Soloists are soprano Diane Atherton, alto Kristen Dubenion-Smith, tenor Jason Rylander, and bass Bob McDonald. At the Northern Virginia Community College’s Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center.

The NSO Pops presents “Happy Holidays!” December 13 to 16. Randall Craig Fleischer conducts, with guest artists New York Voices. At the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

The legendary Vienna Boys Choir appears December 14 at George Mason’s Center for the Arts in a program of Christmas carols, as well as music by Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, Britten, and some popular songs, as well.

Vernacular songs from 14th-century Florence, as well as seasonal dances and other works, are performed by the Folger Consort December 14 to 23 in the Folger Elizabethan Theatre.

The Romeros, the famed family of guitar virtuosos, perform at George Mason’s Center for the Arts December 15, along with the Spanish string ensemble Concerto Málaga, led by Massimo Paris.

The 21st Century Consort will perform two seasonal works December 15: Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and Jon Deak’s The Passion of Scrooge or A Christmas Carol. At the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium.

At the Washington National Cathedral, the Cathedral Choral Society presents two performances of “Joy of Christmas” December 15 and another on December 16.

The Choral Arts Society of Washington will present two holiday programs. December 16 at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, playwright Catherine Flye is featured in “A Family Christmas.” And December 17 and 24, at the same venue, soprano Carrie Henneman and organist Paul Leavitt join conductor Scott Tucker in “An Enchanted Christmas,” complete with carol sing-along.

The City Choir of Washington presents a Christmas concert— “The Holly and the Ivy”—featuring British choral music on December 16 at the National Presbyterian Church. A sing-along will include favorite carols and the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

December 16, the National Chamber Ensemble performs its annual holiday concert, with violinist Rimma Sushanskaya and oboist Ronald Sipes. At the Spectrum Theatre at Artisphere.

The National Symphony Orchestra’s Messiah will be performed December 20 to 23 at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Rolf Beck conducts, with soloists Katherine Whyte, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Sunnyboy Vincent Dladla, and Scott Conner, along with the University of Maryland Concert Choir.

The Washington National Opera presents Engelbert Humperdinck’s enchanting Hansel and Gretel in a company revival conducted by Michael Rosso. David Gately directs, and the cast is drawn from members of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists program. December 21 to 23 at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Other Highlights of the Month

Pianist Lukáš Vondráček performs a challenging and varied recital at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater December 1. On the program: Franz Joseph Haydn’s Sonata in C Major, Hob XVI: 50; Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations; the Six Pieces, Opus 118 of Johannes Brahms; and Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7. Sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society.

The 21st Century Consort presents multimedia treatments of Civil War melodies, as reimagined by composers Charles Ives, Stephen Rush, and William Brehm. Also on the program: Igor Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale. December 1 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium.

At the Phillips Collection December 2, the Hermitage Trio performs Rachmaninoff’s brooding Trio in G minor (“the Elegiac”) along with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Trio in A minor and Beethoven’s Variations on Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu.

Virginia Opera continues its short run of Johann Strauss’s operetta Die Fledermaus, at the George Mason Center for the Arts December 2. Gary Thor Wedow conducts, and Dorothy Danner directs, with a cast including Christina Pier, Phillip Cutlip, Ryan MacPherson, Christopher Burchett, Sarah Jane McMahon, Abigail Nims, Neal Ferreira, Jake Gardener, and Grant Neale.

Violinist Bella Hristova performs Beethoven’s titanic “Kreutzer” Sonata at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington December 2. Arvo Pärt’s “Fratres” opens the recital, followed by Mozart’s Sonata K. 304 and transcriptions of songs from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

At the Kennedy Center Concert Hall December 3, Yo-Yo Ma presents some of the touchstones of the cello literature: selections from the Six Cello Suites of Johann Sebastian Bach. Sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society.

Is there a more popular conductor these days than Gustavo Dudamel? Hear him conduct the orchestra with which he cut his teeth: the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, December 4 at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. The concert, sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society, features the Sinfonia India of Carlos Chávez, Julián Orbón’s Tres versions sinfónicas, and Richard Strauss’s tone poem Eine Alpensinfonie.

Clarinetist José Franch-Ballester, violinist Bella Hristova, and pianist Ran Dank join the ensemble miXt in a chamber music performance sponsored by Young Concert Artists. The musicians will perform Bela Bartók’s Contrasts, John Novacek’s Four Rags for Two Jons, a premiere by David Hertzberg, Jascha Heiftez’s arrangement of excerpts from Porgy and Bess, and the Trio by Paul Schoenfield. At the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, December 4.

Poland is the theme of the National Symphony Orchestra’s concerts on December 6 through 8, with music by two Polish-born composers—Witold Lutoslawski’s magnificent Trauermusik and Frederic Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1—as well as Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3, the “Polish.” Hans Graf guest-conducts, and Yuja Wang is the soloist in the Chopin.

Led by music director Christopher Zimmerman, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra performs an all-Romantic program, December 8 at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts. On the program: Rossini’s Overture to La Gazza Ladra, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 (with soloist James Dick), and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the “Pathétique.”

Violinist Jennifer Frautschi and pianist John Blacklow play all three of Robert Schumann’s violin sonatas—the familiar A minor, Opus 105, and D minor, Opus 121, as well as the posthumous third in A minor. Sponsored by the Phillips Collection, December 9.

December 9, the Kennedy Center Chamber Players, including Marissa Regni, David Hardy, Loren Kitt, and Lambert Orkis, perform a recital including Darius Milhaud’s Suite for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano; Cesar Franck’s Sonata (originally for violin but here arranged for cello and piano); Bach’s Sonata in G minor for cello and piano; and Bela Bartók’s Contrasts for violin, clarinet, and piano. At the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

The Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, led by Elisabeth Adkins, presents Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 Flutes (with Carole Bean and Alice Weinreb), Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin and Cello (with Heather LeDoux Green, violin, and David Teie, cello), and two works by Bach: the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and the Concerto for Oboe and Violin (with Nicholas Stovall, oboe, and Elisabeth Adkins, violin). December 9 at the George Washington Masonic Temple in Alexandria.

In a recital sponsored by the Fortas Chamber Music series, the Fine Arts Quartet performs Franz Joseph Haydn’s Quartet in G major, Opus 77, No. 1; the Quartet in E minor by Efrem Zimbalist (a magnificent Golden Age violinist who also happened to compose); and Franz Schubert’s masterly Death and the Maiden Quartet. December 11 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

The focus of the December 13 performance in the Leading European Composers series at the Phillips Collection is the highly acclaimed Matthias Pintscher. Members of the International Contemporary Ensemble join Pintscher in performances of the composer’s on a clear day for piano; Study II for Treatise on the Veil for violin, viola, and cello; Study II for Treatise on the Veil for violin; and dernier espace avec introspecteur for accordion and cello.

December 16 at the Phillips Collection, pianist Shai Wosner performs music by Beethoven—the Sonata Opus 28, No. 15, the Waldstein Sonata, and two Bagetelles (the Opus 33, No. 5 and the Opus 126, No. 6); Bartók—Out of Doors; and Claude Debussy—Reflets dans l’eau, Mouvement, La sérénade interrompue, and La cathedrale engloutie.