One night I woke to the sound of sled runners and hooves on my roof. I couldn't see much out my bedroom window so I staggered downstairs. As he sprang from the fireplace, St. Nick opened his bag full of classical concerts to fill the season.
First, on November 19, there will be Ossia, the Eastman School's student-run expert New Music ensemble. They'll play Richard Strauss's sumptuously romantic string orchestra work Metamorphosen. Then on the same concert will be one of Gyorgy Ligeti's trailblazing avant-garde works, Ramifications, also for string orchestra. Pianists Marcus Macauley and David Plylar will fill the remainder of the concert with George Crumb's Zeitgeist for two amplified pianos and Charles Ives's Three Pieces for two pianos tuned a quartertone apart.
The yuletide mirth will continue a few weeks later, filling almost every evening from December 4 to 10. On December 4, Ossia plays live and electronic works by Stockhausen, Manzoni, Kancheli, and Beat Furrer in the lively acoustics and cozy atmosphere of Christ Church.
The next afternoon, Rochester's a cappella vocal ensemble Musica Spei will present "A Sacred Renaissance Christmas," the first of their two part "Isaac Project." They'd perform Virgo prudentissima by the Flemish Renaissance composer Heinrich Isaac, along with works of Isaac's predecessor Ockeghem, and contemporaries Josquin, Compere, and others.
Baroque music --- always a favorite at Christmas time --- will be performed the next evening, December 6, by the Eastman's School's Baroque ensemble Collegium Musicum, lead by Christel Thielmann and world-renowned lutenist Paul O'Dette. The next evening, the Boston Brass will fly in to perform a dazzling array of arrangements: works by Piazzolla, Ginastera, Liszt, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Khatchaturian, and Duke Ellington in Eastman's Kilbourn Hall.
Two days later, on December 9, the Eastman-Rochester Chorus will join forces with the Eastman Philharmonia to perform Stravinsky's icy hot choral masterpiece, the Symphony of Psalms, in the Eastman Theatre. The next evening, still in the Eastman Theatre, Brad Lubman will conduct the Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra in Schoenberg's passionate and intricate Chamber Symphony No.1 (1906) and contemporary composer John Adams's own Chamber Symphony (1992), an unabashed tribute to the very same Schoenberg work.
Then there will be four days of rest followed, on December 15, by the Eastman faculty's 70th birthday concert for Russian-German composer Alfred Schnittke --- a grand gift to any fan of postmodern aesthetics.