ISAAC STERN MEMORIAL / THE PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA / SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY / ORCHESTRE SYMPHONIQUE DE MONTRÉAL
Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium (Stern Memorial: March 4, 6, 8) / (The Philadelphia Orchestra: March 13) / (San Francisco Symphony: March 17 & 18) / (Orchestre symphonique de Montréal: March 24)
A very busy month full of big names and stellar orchestras commences with the annual Isaac Stern Memorial Concert, a celebration of Carnegie Hall’s savior in his centenary year by an all-star trio comprised of pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Leonidas Kavakos, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. There will be three different all-Beethoven programs, featuring sonatas and piano trios associated with Stern, plus Seven Variations after Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
The Philadelphia Orchestra follows with more Beethoven; Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 (“Pastoral”), conducted by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
The San Francisco Symphony then arrives for two nights led by its Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. One program will offer Stravinsky’s Firebird, a John Adams N.Y. Premiere, I Still Dance, and Saint-Saëns’s sizzling Cello Concerto No. 1 performed by Gautier Capuçon. The second program is a night with Mahler’s Symphony No. 6.
Kent Nagano makes his final Carnegie Hall appearance as Music Director of Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in a program of Shostakovich’s gripping Babi Yar Symphony and Schumann’s thrilling Piano Concerto played by Mikhail Pletnev.
NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC: FRENCH MASTERWORKS
David Geffen Hall (March 5, 7, 10)
An evening of French classics, straight up, conducted by Louis Langrée in his Philharmonic debut; Debussy’s Nocturnes and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune; Scriabin’s rapturous tone poem Le Poème de l’extase and Ravel’s lustrous Shéhérazade song cycle sung by the electrifying Met Opera diva Isabel Leonard with the the Juilliard School The Women’s Chorus.
DWB (DRIVING WHILE BLACK) / WILLIAM BOLCOM
Baruch College Performing Arts Center (dwb: March 19-21) / (William Bolcom: March 24)
New works of contemporary vocal music are given the spotlight, beginning with dwb (Driving While Black) in its N.Y. Premiere; a timely and compelling operatic monodrama by composer Susan Kander and librettist, soprano Roberta Gumbel, who sings the role of a black mother fretting her young son’s approaching driver’s license and the ominous potential consequences.
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom’s latest song cycle, Tears at the Happy Hour, receives its U.S. Premiere; settings of poems by Auden, E.E. Cummings and Shakespeare, among others, sung by the Paris-based soprano Rayanne Dupuis in her N.Y. debut accompanied by pianist Guy Livingston.
ARS LONGA DE LA HABANA
Baryshnikov Arts Center (March 18)
Cuba's foremost early music group returns to NYC with “Tesoros de América,” a pulsating program of 18th Century music from Cuba, Mexico, and Central America. Five singers, seven musicians and a sublime dance to the music of time.
EMERSON STRING QUARTET
Alice Tully Hall (March 31)
This estimable ensemble will refract Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Quartet No.1 through Béla Bartók’s Quartet No. 1—written as a Beethoven homage—along with Bartók’s Quartet No. 3. Over the next few months, the Emerson will essay all of Bartók’s quartets in tandem with the entirety of Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Quartets as part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series.
SCHOMBURG CENTER WOMEN’S JAZZ FESTIVAL
Schomburg for Research in Black Culture (March 2-30)
A Schomburg tradition during Women’s History Month, every Monday in March. The festival kicks off with “A Ballad for Hazel Scott,” a centennial tribute to one of jazz’s great forgotten pianists and singers; far more famous in her day than she is today. An array of distinguished vocalists follow: Pauline Jean, Renée Neufville and the 2018 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition winner Laurin Talese, plus Firey String Sistas! with dancer-choreographer Dyane Harvey.