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Crazy Quartet Week, and an iconic Gershwin masterpiece at 100

Welcome to Fanfare — our guide to live classical music in the Philadelphia area. Subscribe now to get Fanfare delivered right to your inbox every Sunday.

Spotlight – Crazy Quartet Week

Okay, no one but me is calling it Crazy Quartet Week. But that’s the phrase that came to mind as a look at this week’s local concert scene turned up an extraordinary — well, quartet of quartet performances. The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, our city’s leading purveyor of chamber music, is responsible for two of them: the Philadelphia-based Dover Quartet on Sunday, Jan. 14, and Germany’s Goldmund Quartet on Tuesday, Jan. 16, both at the Perelman Theater. Both groups are about a decade young, receiving consistent international acclaim. They offer thoughtful programs ranging from Haydn to Schumann to Schulhoff to Shostakovich to Florence Price. (If you were fortunate enough to score tickets to the Goldmund concert, which is sold out, arrive early to hear a 6:30 p.m. talk by WRTI’s own Zev Kane.)

Haydn also figures in the very different concert offered on Sunday, Jan,. 21 by the Franklin Quartet, a period-instrument ensemble. Here the focus is on the Ottoman Turkish and Romani elements in Western European music of the 18th century. Classical works referencing these folk traditions rub shoulders with the genuine article in a concert presented by Main Line Early Music at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Bryn Mawr.

Also on Jan. 21, something quite different from a standard concert will unfold at the Harold Prince Theatre, courtesy of Penn Live Arts. Its resident chamber ensemble, the Daedelus Quartet (pictured above), collaborates with two local theatrical directors to produce Bartok’s Monster, a staged piece inspired by a book combining musical mystery and memoir: Avoid the Day by Penn English professor Jay King.

Dover Quartet on Jan. 14 at 3 p.m., Perelman Theater, Ensemble Arts Philly, 300 South Broad Street, $30; tickets and information.

Goldmund Quartet on Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m., sold out; more information.

Franklin Quartet on Jan. 21 at 3 p.m., The Church of the Good Shepherd, 1116 West Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, $30, with discounts for students and seniors; purchase tickets.

Daedalus Quartet on Jan. 21 at 2 and 7 p.m., Harold Prince Theatre, Penn Live Arts, 3680 Walnut Street, $42 (evening show is sold out); tickets and information.

Soprano Alexandra Nowakowski
John Matthew Myers
Soprano Alexandra Nowakowski

Alexandra Nowakowski, soprano – Tuesday at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral

Astral Artists has an established track record of picking promising young artists, nurturing their career development and presenting them in concert. This recital by a gifted soprano and Academy of Vocal Arts alumna looks intriguing, with a theme around the mother-child relationship tying together songs by a disparate group of composers: Dvořák, Szymanowski, Obradors, Falla, Massenet, and a world premiere by Griffin Candey.

Jan. 16 at 6 p.m., Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 19 South 38th Street, $25; purchase tickets.

Stravinsky, Weill, and Gershwin – Thursday through Saturday at Verizon Hall

A great concert program juxtaposes standard and unexpected elements, and that is just what The Philadelphia Orchestra offers here. The standard: Stravinsky’s irresistible and still-fresh ballet Petrushka, with its hapless commedia dell’arte hero given pungent life by a colorful score. The unexpected: Kurt Weill’s Symphony No. 2. His last work for orchestra, it was written in 1933 in the wake of his exile from Nazi Germany. Within a few years he would find his footing in America as a composer almost exclusively of stage works and jazz-inflected songs, leaving the composition of Eurocentric concert works like this symphony firmly behind him. The standard-with-a-twist: Gershwin’s ever-appealing Rhapsody in Blue, given jazzy new life thanks to the Marcus Roberts Trio.

Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 19 at 2 p.m., Jan. 20 at 8 p.m., Verizon Hall, Ensemble Arts Philly, 300 South Broad Street, $48 to $225; tickets and information.

Plan ahead: Vikingur Olafsson – Jan. 26, Perelman Theater

Olafsson is a magical interpreter of the works of J. S. Bach. The prospect of his complete Goldberg Variations in concert is tantalizing indeed. Put it on your calendar now.

Melinda has worked in radio for decades, hosting and producing classical music and arts news. An award-winning broadcaster, she has created and hosted classical music programs and reported for NPR, WQXR—New York, WHYY–Philadelphia, and American Public Media. WRTI listeners may remember her years hosting classical music for WFLN and WHYY.