The upcoming concert year of classical music in San Mateo County is highlighted by the 50th anniversary season of the Masterworks Chorale.
This prominent chorus, now in its 12th year under artistic director Bryan Baker, begins its season Friday, Oct. 25, at Capuchino High School in San Bruno, pairing with the Peninsula Symphony, an even more venerable community ensemble led by Mitchell Sardou Klein. The two groups will perform Handel’s celebratory rouser of a choral anthem, “Zadok the Priest,” and Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy,” a magnificent mishmash combining a draft for the “Ode to Joy” with a piano concerto. The piano part will be played by John O’Conor.
The concert will also include O’Conor performing Grieg’s popular Piano Concerto, and pops favorites by Brahms and Walton. The program repeats Oct. 26 at Flint Center in Cupertino.
The Masterworks Chorale season continues with four concerts in venues around San Mateo and Woodside: Mendelssohn’s epic oratorio “Elijah,” with baritone Kirk Eichelberger in the title role, on Nov. 9-10, a holiday concert Dec. 8, Orff’s ever-popular “Carmina Burana” on March 22-23, a homecoming after performing the work in New York, and a concert of classical and popular love songs, featuring Brahms and Gershwin, on May 31 and June 1. Details are at masterworks.org.
The Peninsula Symphony is holding three more series concerts, all at the Performing Arts Center on the San Mateo High School campus, repeating at Flint Center. There’s a jazz tribute to Gershwin and Dave Brubeck Jan. 17-18, a premiere of a concerto for himself by clarinetist Jonathan Russell March 21-22, and a violin concerto with 18-year-old Youjin Lee, winner of this year’s Irving Klein International String Competition, on May 16-17. Details are at peninsulasymphony.org.
The Redwood Symphony, the county’s other community orchestra, begins its season Sept. 28. All regular concerts are at Cañada College in Redwood City on Saturday evenings. The first concert features Richard Strauss’ colorful storytelling tone poem “Don Quixote,” with explanatory supertitles to help listeners follow the action. The program also includes George Enescu’s lively Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1 and a little-known vigorous modern American gem, “Dance Rhythms” by Wallingford Riegger.
The rest of the Redwood season is much the same: big popular works like Holst’s “The Planets,” Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with Jassen Todorov and Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Daniel Glover, paired with shorter surprises by distinguished modern composers like Gyorgy Ligeti, John Adams and Alfred Schnittke. There’s five subscription concerts plus a Halloween family concert. Details are at redwoodsymphony.org.
Touring chamber music ensembles will also be heard in the county. The busiest local chamber music presenter is Music at Kohl Mansion, holding concerts on the Mercy High School campus in Burlingame on Sunday evenings. Its first concert, on Oct. 20, features the renowned Fine Arts Quartet in works by Haydn, Saint-Saëns and Schumann. The season ends May 4 with a German ensemble, the Henschel Quartet. In between are three other string quartets, including local favorites the Alexander Quartet Nov. 10, a string-and-piano quartet, an opera recital gala and the esteemed pianist Garrick Ohlsson, playing major works by Beethoven, Schubert and, his specialty, Chopin. Details are at musicatkohl.org.
Music@Menlo is keeping its seats warm between summer festivals with a winter series of three Sunday afternoon concerts at the Menlo-Atherton Center for Performing Arts. It begins with the Emerson Quartet, showing off its new cellist, Paul Watkins, on Oct. 13. A program featuring French music for two pianists, with Festival co-director Wu Han among the performers, follows on Feb. 9, and a recital by pianist Alessio Bax, playing Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” concludes the series May 11. Details are at musicatmenlo.org.
Then there’s the more varied series at the Mission Blue Center in Brisbane. Its first concert is Jan. 11, featuring the male vocal ensemble Clerestory in songs setting words by Shakespeare. Other concerts feature English music from Agave Baroque, a song recital by mezzo Danielle Reutter-Harrah, and the Cypress String Quartet. Details are at liveatmissionblue.com.
Philharmonia Baroque, the Bay Area’s distinguished early music orchestra, is playing two concerts at the Menlo-Atherton Performing Arts Center, featuring Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater Oct. 2, and little known early Russian music Nov. 19. Details are at philharmonia.org.