Now that the holiday concerts are behind us, the classical season returns in full in February — and none too soon. Our classical music expert, Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, offers these notes on what to look for in February:
• Things start out with the truly amazing pianist, Nobuyuki Tsujii. Born blind, the 24-year-old Japanese man tied for the gold medal at the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He learns all of his scores (some of the most complex in the repertoire) one note at a time. His performance has to be experienced live to be understood. You can hear him with the Fort Worth Symphony on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 1 and 2, at 8 p.m., and Sunday for a 2 p.m. matinee. He will play Tchaikovsky’s first concerto, which rocketed Van Cliburn himself to fame in 1958 in Moscow.
• Next weekend, the Dallas Opera takes you into both the oven and the frying pan with Lee Hoiby’s Opera Bon Appetit! Mezzo soprano Susan Nicely portrays food goddess and gay icon Julia Child in this tuneful and delicious amuse bouche. It’s a one-day-only event (Feb. 9), but there are two performances: one at 11:30 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. It will be presented not in the opera house, but in the Dallas Farmers Market Demonstration Kitchen. Where else? Admission is free, but reservations are needed.
• Also on the opera front, a rarity will be the modern première of the 1711 zarzuela (a type of Spanish operetta) by Sebastián Durón entitled Cupid’s New Weapons of Love. Performances are on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) and repeat Feb. 16 at the new City Performance Hall. This is a fully staged production, sung in Spanish, with the dialog in English. It brings together theater, dance and Baroque music to tell the sad tale of Jupiter’s theft of Cupid’s arrows and Diana’s plotting to get them returned.
• The Cliburn at the Bass Series brings the megawatt star power of American violinist Joshua Bell to brighten a dreary February on the 18th at 7:30 p.m. It really doesn’t matter what Bell plays, he packs the house. Like Tsujii, but for completely different reasons, a live Bell performance is indescribable; however, his inclusion of the Strauss sonata and Prokofiev’s second sonata, which was originally written for flute, will please his fans.
• The Dallas Symphony finally sneaks on the list on the 28th, spilling into March, as music director Jaap van Zweden tackles Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, pairing with an unlikely performance of a two recorder concert by Vivaldi, with avant-garde recorder virtuoso Erik Bosgraaf doing the honors.