As we finish up Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey soup time!) and before we slide into the tinselly end of the year let us pause to give thanks for the music of the late Elliott Carter, who died 5 November aged 103, composing his rich music right up to the end. He would have been 104 on 11 December, so on that day at least let's put aside Nutcrackers and Messiahs and carols old and new and pay him the only tribute suitable to a great composer: let's listen to his music.
Cal Performances presents Mark Morris's The Hard Nut, 14-23 December. If you've never seen this you need to go, and if you have seen it, you already know that you need to see it again.
New Century Chamber Orchestra has a program mixing the familiar with new ways of treating the old: Handel's Entrance of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon and Vivaldi's Four Seasons (those are the familiar, in case you couldn't guess), along with Clarice Assad's Suite for Strings, Based on Themes of Bach and featured composer Lera Auerbach's Sogno di Stabat Mater for Solo Violin, Viola, Vibraphone and String Orchestra, described as "a loving tribute" to Pergolesi's Stabat Mater; that's 12-13 and 15-16 December, in the usual various places; check here for more details.
Don't let overfamiliarity keep you from the pleasures of Messiah - for years I made a point of hearing at least one live performance every Christmastime, and it enriched my holiday soul. Cal Performances teams up with Philharmonia Baroque to present it 8 December in the First Congregational Church; the San Francisco Symphony performs it 13-15 December in Davies Hall; and American Bach Soloists perform it 20-22 December in Grace Cathedral.
If you want something Christmassy and baroque that isn't Handel, Philharmonia Baroque has Masaaki Suzuki leading an all-Bach program featuring the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, Cantata No. 63 Christen, atzet diesen Tag, and the Magnificat; that's 13-16 December in the usual various places; details here.
If you want something as new to your ears as Messiah would have been in 1742, check out Volti's Not-the-Messiah December Choral Concert, which presents "alternative ways of celebrating the love and spirituality of the season" through new and recent works by Armando Bayolo, Stacy Garrop, Shawn Crouch, David Shapiro, and Charles Halka; that's on 2, 7, and 8 December in the usual various locations; details here.
Magnificat presents its only concert of the season, Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Nativity Pastorale, 7-9 December, in the usual various locations; details here.
The Berkeley Symphony celebrates St Nicholas Day (6 December, but you knew that) in Zellerbach Hall with the Ligeti Piano Concerto, the Schumann 2, and the premiere of Dylan Mattingly's Invisible Skyline; on 9 December they move to the Crowden Music Center for the first concert in their new music series, Under Construction, featuring works by Andrew Ly, Michael Nicholas, and Davide Verotta in an open-rehearsal-style concert.
On 9 December the Hidden Classics reading series at Cutting Ball Theater presents Vaclav Havel's The Increased Difficulty of Concentration.
Theater of Yugen presents A Minor Cycle: Five Little Plays in One Starry Night by Greg Giovanni, based on childhood tales, refracted through the traditional theatrical styles of Japan (Kyogen, Bunraku, Noh, and Kabuki); 11-30 December.
The San Francisco Olympians theater festival runs 5-20 December at the Exit Theater; you can check here for details, but you need to scroll down an entry or two for details on this year's festival.
And to all a good night!