GET-WELL WISHES James Levine and the BSO kick off their “Russian season” on September 24.
What everyone is looking forward to this fall is the return to the podium of BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA music director James Levine after he missed most of the Tanglewood season following kidney surgery. The opening gala is a Russian affair: Glinka, Mussorgsky, and the Letter Scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with Latvian soprano Maija Kovalevska (Symphony Hall; September 24; 617.266.1200 orwww.bso.org). Among Levine’s other concerts: Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem, with soprano Christine Schäfer and baritone Michael Volle (September 26-27); Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (October 10, 11, 14); the premiere of Leon Kirchner’s The Forbidden along with Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony and the great Maurizio Pollini in Schumann’s Piano Concerto (October 16-18); and a seductive program of Messiaen, Boulez, and Berlioz’s gorgeous Harold in Italy, with BSO violist Stephen Ansell (October 23-25). Guest conductors include André Previn, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Marek Janowski, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and Seiji Ozawa in a Messiaen/Berlioz program with pianist Peter Serkin and Takashi Harada on the eerie ondes Martenot (November 28-29).
Levine will also celebrate the phenomenal Elliott Carter, who turns 100 on December 11. He’ll conduct the world premiere of Carter’s Interventions for Piano and Orchestra, with Daniel Barenboim, who’ll also play Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto and join Levine in Schubert’s exquisite F-minor Fantasie for piano four hands. Levine will close the program with Stravinsky’s seminal and still exhilarating Le sacre du printemps (December 4-5); then he’ll repeat the Stravinsky with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and BSO horn player James Sommerville in Carter’s Horn Concerto, last season’s Carter premiere (December 6, 9).
The CELEBRITY SERIES OF BOSTON (617.482.6661 orwww.celebrityseries.org) leads off with another birthday bash — pianist Leon Fleisher’s 80th (also honoring Celebrity Series founder Aaron Richmond), with guest pianists Yefim Bronfman, Jonathan Biss, and Kathryn Jacobson, all former Fleisher students (Jordan Hall; October 3). Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian celebrates Armenian composer Gomidas (Jordan Hall; October 19). The Hungarian folk group Muzsikás and Marta Sebestyén join the Takács String Quartet in an unusual evening of Bartók and the folk music that inspired him, with a selection of Bartók’s original field recordings (Jordan Hall; November 16). And Fabio Luisi conducts the Dresden Staatskappelle, with pianist Rudolf Buchbinder (Symphony Hall; November 19).
David Hoose and the CANTATA SINGERS (617.868.5885 orwww.cantatasingers.org) add Benjamin Britten to their season-long explorations of single composers. They start with performances of Britten’s Cantata misericordium, on a program with Fauré’s Requiem (Jordan Hall; November 7), and an evening of songs (Britten composed great ones) and chamber music (Jordan Hall; November 23).
The visionary Craig Smith, founder of EMMANUEL MUSIC, planned this season before he died; it will be performed in his memory, leading off with a gala evening of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos (Emmanuel Church; September 18; 617.536.3356 orwww.emmanuelmusic.org). The weekly Sunday-morning Bach cantatas begin October 5. The Schumann Chamber Series, in its fifth and last year, resumes with Russell Sherman playing Kreisleriana, Arabesque, and the C-major Fantasie (October 26) and mezzo-soprano Krista River singing lieder (November 2). WINSOR MUSIC, founded by Peggy Pearson, Emmanuel Orchestra’s magnificent oboist, adds new oboe repertoire every season in the intimate atmosphere of Lexington’s Follen Church (concerts September 20, October 29, November 28; 781.863.2861 orwww.winsormusic.org).
The BOSTON PHILHARMONIC’s charismatic conductor Benjamin Zander turns 70, and he’s celebrating with concerts at Sanders Theatre and Jordan Hall, all including his celebrated lectures (October 15, 18, 19, with pianist George Li; November 20, 22, 23, with violinist Gilles Apap and oboist Peggy Pearson; 617.236.0999 orwww.bostonphil.org).
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA begins its “Spellbound” season with Keith Lockhart conducting one of the most spellbinding operas of all, Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann; soprano Georgia Jarman makes her BLO debut singing all four bewitching heroines (Shubert Theatre; November 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 18; 617.542.4912 orwww.blo.org). For OPERA BOSTON, Gil Rose leads another spellbinder, Weber’s Der Freischütz (“The Marksman”), with its haunting Wolf’s Glen scene (Cutler Majestic Theatre; October 17, 19, 21; 617.451.3388 orwww.operaboston.org). Richard Conrad’s the BOSTONIANS brings us Gilbert & Sullivan’s most touching operetta, The Yeomen of the Guard (Jordan Hall; November 30; 617.242.4015). And Richard Pittman’s BOSTON MUSICA VIVA stages three new mini-operas inspired by Boston statues (Tsai Center; October 3; 617.354.6910 orwww.bmv.org).
BOSTON EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL offers fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout leading the Collegium Vocale Gent singing rare Haydn (First Congregational Church in Cambridge; October 18; 617.661.1812 orwww.bemf.org); gambist Jordi Savall with Hespèrion XX1 in music from the time of Cervantes (Sanders Theatre; October 25); and the BEMF Orchestra in one-act chamber operas by Blow and Charpentier (Jordan Hall; November 29). Martin Pearlman’s period-instrument BOSTON BAROQUE presents a semi-staged version of Handel’s Xerxes, with remarkable male soprano Michael Maniaci (Jordan Hall; October 24-25; 617.484.9200 orwww.bostonbaroque.org). Donald Teeters begins Boston Cecilia’s 133rd season with Bach’s B-minor Mass, giving us our first chance to hear countertenor Jeffrey Gall in his new incarnation as a baritone (Jordan Hall; November 23; 617.232.4540 orwww.bostoncecilia.org). The HANDEL AND HAYDN SOCIETY enters its 193rd season with programs dedicated to Handel led by Harry Christophers (Symphony Hall; October 3, 5), and Mozart and Beethoven led by Richard Egarr (Symphony Hall; November 7, 9; 617.262.1815 orwww.handelandhaydn.org).