Winter arts guide: Music listings

Daniel Barenboim performs as part of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

December

Handel’s ‘Messiah’
Nov. 30 through Dec. 2
Symphony Hall
301 Mass. Ave., Boston
$25-$90, 617-266-3605
www.handelandhaydn.org
Harry Christophers conducts an orchestra whose members will use period-specific instruments for this perennial Christmas season favorite. There’s lots of great singing invovled too, and in case you forget the words to the most famous part, it goes, “Haaaalleluiah, haaaalleluiah, halleluiah, halleluiah, halleeeeeeluiah!” It’s a little tricky, admittedly, but you’ll get the hang of it in time for the concert.

Holiday Pops
Dec. 5 through 24
Symphony Hall
301 Mass. Ave., Boston
$29-$129, 888-266-1200
www.bso.org
This one’s a no-brainer: Keith Lockhart conducting the Boston Pops through all your favorite holiday tunes. Word has it that St. Nick himself will be appearing during the show. But kids, it’s not appropriate to “send” him your list via paper airplane, no matter how skillfully it’s lobbed at the stage. Use the U.S. Postal service like everyone else.

Shirim: Klezmer Nutcracker
Dec. 9, 4:30 p.m.
Club Passim
47 Palmer St., Cambridge
$13-$15, 617-492-7679
www.clubpassim.org
Yes, you read right — it’s a klezmer version of Tchaikovsky’s immortal Christmas work. In the wrong hands, this idea could descend into trite novelty, but Shirim’s “Nutcracker” is far too clever — take a listen to “Dance of the Latkes Queens,” which turns the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” into a slinky cabaret burlesque, and try not to smirk. 

January

Paul Lewis
Jan. 12, 8 p.m.
Jordan Hall
30 Gainsborough St., Boston
$35-$75, 617-482-6661
www.celebrityseries.org
Unlike many musicians, English pianist Paul Lewis grew up in a completely unmusical family — in Harry Potter terms, he’s a muggle-born wi-zard. Lewis’ declarative, highly physical style, punctuated with lots of great faces, is a perfect fit for the emotional intensity of Beethoven. So it makes sense that Lewis has recorded all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas. Here, however, he’ll play three Schubert sona-tas. There’s no telling what kind of facial expressions he’ll make for the occasion.   

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Jan. 27, 3:30 p.m.
Symphony Hall
301 Mass. Ave., Boston
$30-$125, 617-482-6661
www.celebrityseries.org
Edward Said and conductor Daniel Barenboim formed this orchestra, composed of musicians from Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries, in 1999 to demonstrate the possibilities of Middle Easterners from different backgrounds coming together to make a sweeter sound than exploding bombs. They’ll be performing Beethoven’s second symphony as well as his third, popularly known as the “Eroica” symphony.

Verdi Requiem
Jan. 17 through 19
Symphony Hall
301 Mass. Ave. Boston
$30-$114, 888-266-1200
www.bso.org
Italian conductor Daniele Gatti leads the B.S.O., plus the Tanglewood  Festival Chorus and four vocal soloists, all making their B.S.O. debuts, in this performance celebrating Verdi’s 200th birthday. The “Requiem” itself began as a tribute to Rossini, but when that fell through, Verdi retooled his contribution into a Mass for the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni, one of his heroes.

Joyful Noise Gospel Concert
Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Sanders Theatre
45 Quincy St., Cambridge
Price TBA, 617-577-1400
www.multiculturalartscenter.org
Mid-winter is a perfect time for a shot of pure, positive, life-affirming energy, which you’ll get here in ample supply. The headlining act is the world-famous Harlem Gospel Choir. The concert, as always, honors the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., who is presumably on your mind anyway after you’ve taken in ‘The Mountaintop” (see page 12).

February

‘Clemency’
Feb. 6 through 10
Artists for Humanity EpiCenter
100 W. Second St., Boston
$100, 617-542-6772
www.blo.org
This is the U.S. premiere of this James MacMillan English-language opera. It goes to one of the heaviest books ever writ-ten for inspiration — the book of Genesis, specifically the story of Abraham and Sarah. It’s preceded by a performance of the thematically-related Schubert piece “Hagar’s Lament.”

‘Play Ball’
Feb. 8, 8 p.m.
Old South Church
645 Boylston St., Boston
$5-$30, 781-381-3300
www.symphonynova.org
If you’re missing baseball season this winter, this concert by Symphony Nova might raise your spirits. It includes orchestrations of “Sweet Caroline,” “Seventy-Six Trombones,” “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and music from “E.T.” Though “E.T.” has very little to do with baseball, is that music ever unwelcome anywhere? Actually, maybe during the bottom of the ninth at Fenway when the bases are loaded with a full-count.

Shostakovich

and Tchaikovsky
Jan. 31 through Feb. 5
Symphony Halla
301 Mass. Ave., Boston
$30-$114, 888-266-1200
www.bso.org
Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons guest conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra for these concerts. Fellow Latvian Baiba Skride takes center stage for Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1., which, due to harsh Stalinist censorship rules, had to wait until Stalin’s death to be performed — apparently, violin solos are pro-capitalist? Go figure. Tchaikovsky’s pre-Stalin fifth symphony follows.


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