fall preview 2021

18 New Classical Music Performances to Hear This Fall

Jonas Kaufmann sings at Carnegie Hall, Conrad Tao on stage at 92Y, and more.

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Fotopress/Getty Images, Chris Lee, Ronald Knapp, Tim Bugbee
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Fotopress/Getty Images, Chris Lee, Ronald Knapp, Tim Bugbee

It’s hard to believe that after this endless intermission, live music and opera will finally be heard within four walls again—not in the occasional, painfully cautious one-off, but as a matter of course. Singing and playing together in a resonant room, an activity that has always been simultaneously primal and refined, and that has persisted through wars and deprivation, is easy to take for granted. No more. That doesn’t mean concert life is snapping back to its pre-pandemic self. Travel is still difficult, and so is long-term planning, constraints that continue to choke the global circuit of talent. But New York has a tanker-sized well of professionals to draw from. And, for some historically rigid organizations, having to scramble a bit might not be bad thing, especially if it helps them stay more attuned to a fast-moving culture and musicians’ mercurial careers. The restart follows a period of reflection, and the effects of that much silence and thought will unfold over the coming season and then through the years to come.


Verdi’s Requiem
Metropolitan Opera, September 11
Twenty years after Kurt Masur led the New York Philharmonic in a memorable post-9/11 performance of Brahms’s Requiem, Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct that work’s Italian counterpart in concert, with soprano Ailyn Pérez, mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca, tenor Matthew Polenzani, and bass-baritone Eric Owens.

Sun & Sea
BAM, September 15 to September 26
The surprise hit of the 2019 Venice Biennale turned out to be a Lithuanian opera set at the beach with a cast of singing sunbathers. The music by Lina Lapelyté is gentle, the riptides quiet but menacing.

New York Philharmonic
Alice Tully Hall, September 17
As Geffen Hall is being renovated, music director Jaap van Zweden goes next door with music both whispered (Anna Clyne’s Within Her Arms, Copland’s Quiet City) and full-throated (George Walker’s Antifonys and Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, with Daniil Trifonov).

Only an Octave Apart
St. Ann’s Warehouse, September 21 to October 3
Kabarettist Justin Vivian Bond and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo explore their genres’ commonalities — camp, excess, outrageousness — as directed by Zack Winokur.

A Survivor’s Odyssey: The Journey of Penelope and Circe
Streaming September 24 through 28 at whitesnakeprojects.org
As performance moves back into the 3-D world, Cerise Jacobs and her White Snake Projects are sticking to the online stage. Part three of their Pandemic Trilogy, composed by Mary Prescott, ranges from the Odyssey to life in lockdown, using distance as both theme and creative tool.


Carnegie Hall Opening Night Gala
Carnegie Hall, October 6
Most orchestra tours are off for the year, leaving Carnegie Hall to recitalists and chamber musicians. But the Philadelphia Orchestra is making the run up to 57th Street with pianist Yuja Wang and a program ranging from the brand-new (Valerie Coleman’s commemorative Seven O’Clock Shout) to the you-know-how-it-goes (Beethoven’s Fifth).

Jonas Kaufmann & Helmut Deutsch
Carnegie Hall, October 9
Kaufmann, the satin-voiced tenor whose New York appearances were rare even before the pandemic, anchors a stripped-down Carnegie Hall season with a recital accompanied by Deutsch.

VOCES8, After Silence
Merkin Hall, October 16
The a cappella vocal ensemble, that staple of certain collegiate corners, reaches its apogee in the London-based mixed octet. In its latest release and tour program, the group careers across the centuries in a cloud of spiritual exaltation and formidable precision.

New York Philharmonic
Alice Tully Hall, October 20
What is American music? For a century in the concert hall, that question has generally been addressed by a stylistically eclectic collection of white men. This time the circle is enlarged: Dalia Stasevska leads a range of American vistas composed by Missy Mazzoli, Anthony Davis, and John Adams.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Metropolitan Opera, October 26 to November 14
Wagner’s six-hour epic about a singer-songwriter Olympiad in 16th-century Germany is the kind of big-voiced spectacle that opera fans missed most during a year and a half of livestreams. Though it’s mostly an opera about the foibles of men, the reliably awesome soprano Lise Davidsen gets top billing.

Lawrence Brownlee and Michael Spyres
92nd St. Y, October 27
Every tenor needs a sidekick or a nemesis, preferably both. Brownlee and Spyres fulfill those functions for each other in an album called Amici e Rivali (Friends and Rivals) and in an all-Rossini program, facing off with impeccable vocal elegance. With Myra Huang on piano.


Leonidas Kavakos, Violin, and Yuja Wang, Piano
Carnegie Hall, Nov. 4
There are not many musicians who can hold a vast hall rapt with a barely audible pianissimo or make a single note sound thunderous, but these two can. For those who’ve had them on rotation in their earbuds, it will be good to hear them in physical space.

Liaisons: Reimagining Sondheim From the Piano
Merkin Hall, November 18
The highest form of flattery is a remix, and pianist Anthony de Mare has wrangled an impressive list of composers (including Jon Batiste, Meredith Monk, and Max Richter) into reworking Sondheim songs into virtuoso concert pieces.

The Orchestra Now
Carnegie Hall, November 18
With his flair for excavating the archives, Leon Botstein conducts Julia Perry’s 1951 Stabat Mater and the 19th-century composer George Frederick Bristow’s Symphony No. 4. There’s fresh music, too: Gil Shaham’s world premiere of a new work for violin for him by Scott Wheeler.

Metropolitan Opera, November 23 to December 16
The second of three new works in the current Met season, Matthew Aucoin’s twist on opera’s oldest tale is to tell it from Eurydice’s point of view instead of tracking her attention-hogging spouse, Orpheus. Erin Morley sings the title role in a production by Mary Zimmerman.


Jeremy Denk, piano
92nd St. Y, December 4
Some things don’t require reinvention. One player, one piano, one piece — that’s all there is to Denk’s performance of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, and who could ask for anything more?

Conrad Tao, Piano
92nd St. Y, December 18
A bona fide virtuoso and fluent composer, Tao spent the past year and a half treating the livestream concert as a vehicle for public experimentation and now returns to the physical stage.

Metropolitan Opera, December 31 to June 11
Verdi’s weepy classic had its most recent run at the Met, reset in Rat Pack–era Las Vegas. Now Bartlett Sher moves the action to the Weimar Republic for that irresistible mixture of sordid violence and Deco glam.

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18 New Classical Music Performances to Hear This Fall