Classical music follows an academic year calendar, so it's back to school time for the many vibrant performing organizations and presenters in Northeast Ohio. Here are some highlights of what's happening in and around Cleveland during the fall months that you should be sure not to miss.
It's a landmark year for The Cleveland Orchestra, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017-2018. By the time this article hits the streets, the ensemble already will have launched that celebratory season with a revival of Janacek's opera, The Cunning Little Vixen, and performances of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Before the orchestra heads off to Europe, Franz Welser-Möst will lead performances of Gustav Mahler's Sixth Symphony on Oct. 5 and 6. After that, fans will have to cool their ears until November, when the orchestra returns to Severance Hall for concerts featuring Vladimir Ashkenazy and Emmanuel Ax (Nov. 3, 4 and 5). Early music guru Nicholas McGegan returns to conduct Rameau, Gluck and Mozart — with pianist Marc-André Hamelin — Nov. 17 to 18, and Giancarlo Guerrero will be on the podium for concerts featuring organist Paul Jacobs in Stephen Paulus' Grand Concerto for Organ and Orchestra on Nov. 24 and 26. Conductor Fabio Luisi and pianist Jonathan Biss will be the headliners on Dec. 1 and 2 in a program that includes a new work by Salvatore Sciarrino, and music director laureate Christoph von Dohnányi and pianist Richard Goode will end the fall lineup with concerts on Dec. 7, 8, and 9. Then it's visions of sugarplums for the rest of the month as the orchestra presents its annual round of holiday performances.
Though not so old as the Cleveland Orchestra, Ross W. Duffin's Quire Cleveland will celebrate their 10th anniversary as one of Cleveland's most distinguished startup ensembles with a number of performances around the region. Their fall homestays include a tribute to the famous 17th-century Westminster Abbey and English Chapel Royal composer Henry Purcell on Oct. 5 in Painesville and Oct. 6 at St. John's Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. Quire will also offer its ninth round of "Carols for Quire" in three Cleveland venues, Dec. 15 to 17.
Another successful startup is marking its ninth anniversary this season. Debra Nagy's Les Délices, recently rebranded as "LD," got underway in September with a jazz-Baroque crossover brunch at Nighttown. Its fall lineup includes "Inspired by Italy," featuring violinist Julie Andrijeski, on Oct. 21 and 22, as well as some interesting outreach activities.
Apollo's Fire lit candles for its 25th anniversary last season. This year, three new productions will feature Cleveland's Baroque Orchestra in Handel's Israel in Egypt in a special version by Jeannette Sorrell Oct. 12 to 15; tenor Nicholas Phan in a program of lute songs dubbed "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover," Nov. 9 to 12; and an Irish-Appalachian Christmas show, "Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain," Dec. 2 to 10.
Not inclined to sit back and rest during years between contests, the Cleveland International Piano Competition has pulled off a coup by engaging the services of the fabulous Martha Argerich, who will make her Cleveland debut at Severance Hall on Oct. 30, joining Cleveland's own Sergei Babayan for a duo-piano duel. Piano fans can also enjoy performances by Roberto Plano and Awadagin Pratt in the Tri-C Classical Piano Series at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Oct. 15 and Nov. 11, and by young British phenomenon Benjamin Grosvenor in Oberlin's Artist Recital Series on Nov. 12. An exotic piano event will take place at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Oct. 20, when pianist Sarah Cahill performs Lou Harrison's Concerto for Piano with Javanese Gamelan using one of the composer's own instruments on loan from Harvard.
Cleveland has a big appetite for chamber music, and some notable events to log into your calendar include the Danish String Quartet (Oct. 10), the Tetzlaff Quartet (Nov. 14) and the Emerson String Quartet (Dec. 5) in the Cleveland Chamber Music Society series at Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights. On the other side of town, Vermont's Green Mountain Chamber Players (Oct. 9) and the venerable Dorian Wind Quintet (Nov. 13) are presented by the Rocky River Chamber Music Society. Further south, two Cleveland Orchestra ensembles will visit the Music from the Western Reserve series at Christ Church in Hudson: the Cleveland Bluegrass Orchestra will strum and fiddle away on Oct. 1, followed on Nov. 12 by Ensemble HD, the group of musicians who made headlines playing at the Happy Dog.
Opera gets off to a slow start this season, but Cleveland Opera Theater is first up with a production of Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera at CWRU's Maltz Performing Arts Center on Oct. 27 and 29. Oberlin Opera Theater will be close behind with Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro Nov. 1 to 5. The Cleveland Insitute of Music Opera Theater follows with Cherubini's Medea from Nov. 8 to 11.
Fans of new music have several events to look forward to. Timothy Beyer's No Exit will play three world premieres on Sept. 29 and 30 at CSU's Drinko Hall and Spaces gallery. The Signature Series at Lorain County Community College will host the Hilo Duo on Oct. 10 and Transient Canvas on Nov. 21. And the Cleveland Composers Guild will present a concert of chamber works written by its members on Oct. 15, also in Drinko Hall.
Classical guitar aficionados will enjoy hearing recitals by Cecil Refik Kaya (Oct. 14) and Sharon Isbin, making her Cleveland debut with the assistance of Colin Davin (Nov. 4), in the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society series at Plymouth Church.
And cello lovers will be interested to know about a recital by Lithuanian cellist David Geringas with CIM's Callisto Quartet on Oct. 14 at CSU's Waetjen Auditorium, sponsored by the Cleveland Cello Society.
We've had to leave many interesting performances off this list, including events scheduled outside greater Cleveland. Check the Concert Listings page at ClevelandClassical.com for a complete schedule.