In a January without snow, there’s not much excuse not to get out of the house. And after what amounted to a long, languid pause from Christmas through the first week of the new year, there are enough enticing events to plan for that no one, myself included, will be able to make it to all of them. No matter how much we want to. Pick and choose from below, these are all highly recommended:
Through January 29: New York Guitar Festival — the 2012 installment of this annual event should be a crowd-pleaser. The centerpiece is new music from the likes of Dan Zanes, Lee Ranaldo, Nuke & Gase and My Brightest Diamond, playing new music alongside silent films from Buster Keaton. There’s also a concert honoring Jim Hall, the Alternative Guitar Summit, and more.
January 9: This date inaugurates a new series at Housing Works, “Safe Space,” which connects classical musicians and writers in performance and conversation. The opening event brings you Jonathan Biss (who both plays and writes about Beethoven wonderfully) and Adam Haslett, while future events will have Jeremy Denk and Nadia Sirota. The ticket is $12, not only a great value but a great cause: all sales benefit the venue and the work to ameliorate AIDS and homelessness.
January 12: A double-bill at Roulette of the Quasar Saxophone Quartet and Jason Kao Hwang leading his ensemble Local Lingo. The quartet is playing music from Luc Marcel, Xenakis and a piece from composer Jean-Francois Laporte that uses custom woodwind instruments he built for the performance. They’re also playing a work by Hwang, an excellent improvising violinist and intriguing composer. He has two strong, recommended discs out this past year, Crossroads Unseen, with his quartet Edge (Hwang, Taylor Ho Bynum, Andrew Drury and Ken Filiano), and Spontanous River, with music Hwang has written for a chamber orchestra sized string ensemble. Each displays his virtues as a musician and composer. Edge plays knotty, dexterous instrumental lines with a danceable sense of groove and rhythm, while the music on Spontaneous River is a finely crafted and very satisfying combination of freedom and structure, it’s an especially impressive recording. Local Lingo is a monster band, with Sang Won Park, William Parker, Thomas Buckner, and Joe McPhee, and they’ll be playing music setting the poetry of Lester Afflick, Fay Chiang, Steve Dalachinsky, Patricia Spears Jones and Yuko Otomo.
January 13: This is the day the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art reopens, and following that is a series of intriguing concerts of American music, part of Limor Tomer’s fascinating programming. On the 20th, the Asphalt Orchestra marches through the Met and on the 22nd, Thomas Hampson brings his wonderful “Songs of America” program to the museum.
January 22: How to choose? If Hampson is not your tea, go hear Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley bring their Shuffle.Play.Listen recording — one of the best discs of 2011 — to the Highline Ballroom.
January 27: Stan Kenton remains both important and controversial — just ask David Hajdu — for his at times radically bombastic anti-jazz attitude, all while making jazz. Like him or not, Kenton was necessary, taking chances, often succeeding, and challenging jazz’s smug assumptions about itself. His Centennial passed in December, and it will be celebrated in a series of concerts, the first one at the Manhattan School of Music.
January 27 – February 3: There’s another Centennial this year, and landmark one, that of the birth of John Cage. There will be performances and new record releases all year, and the first big event is the Juilliard FOCUS! 2012 festival, devoted to Cage. These six free concerts join the music of Cage with his most vital peers, like Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison.
January 27 – February 6: The Composers Concordance Festival, nearing thirty years of production, spans the Hudson and a series of concerts that explore songs, the blues, ensemble music and electronics.
January 31: Philip Glass is turning 75 this year, and the celebrations, of which there are a few, begin with this concert at Carnegie Hall. The America Composers Orchestra, with Dennis Russell Davies returning at the podium, will be premiering Glass’ Symphony No. 9 and bringing Aro Pärt’s “Lamentate” to New York City for the first time.
January 31: Johann Johannsson’s sombre and lovely new recording, The Miner’s Hymns, comes to you live at the Winter Garden, with a showing of Bill Morrison’s accompanying film.
February 2: Simone Dinnerstein will be playing music from her upcoming release at Miller Theatre. She’s a Brooklyn favorite, and deservedly so because of her work with music in the community, but she’s also the real thing, a great pianist and one of the finest contemporary Bach players.
February 4 – March 28: The Ecstatic Music Festival returns after it’s winning initial series. Judd Greenstein has put together another exciting combination of new music of all kinds; contemporary classical, pop, rock and … other …. ?
February 12: Almost a year of trials and tribulations for New York City Opera will come to a point, of one kind or another, at the opening night of their new season. La Traviata at BAM will be quickly followed by Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna and Cosi fan Tutte. That is, of course, if the season actually gets started — the takeaway from this article is the closing quote: “City Opera’s death rests squarely on the shoulders of Chuck Wall,” chairman of the City Opera board.
February 14: With the impish irreverence that only Steven Blier can bring to the recital stage, NYFOS returns on Valentine’s Day with “A Modern Person’s Guide to Hooking Up and Breaking Up” (Description), repeated on the 16th.
February 23 – 26: The Tune-In festival returns to the Park Avenue Armory. Last year’s was one of the finest concert events of recent years, and this year’s is an ambitious tribute to Glass. The highlights are concert performances of two works that were not only essential aesthetic and intellectual breakthroughs for him but are important masterpieces of the late 20th century: Music in Twelve Parts and Another Look at Harmony.
February 28: It’s a reunion for Joan Jeanrenaud and the Kronos Quartet, at Zankel Hall, where she will be playing music with the group from their new CD, Music of Vladimir Martynov. There will be four premieres, including what’s promised to be a major new work from Donnacha Dennehy.