The year draws to a close. In the rather brief list below I have mostly omitted holiday events; I'm not making any sort of point there, I too love Messiah, Nutcracker, Christmas Carol, tinsel and shiny fragile things; it's just that I have had even less time than usual the past month, and the best holiday performances are the ones you go see every year in your own beloved personal traditions, and you already know about those. (I'm sorry this is not one of the years when Cal Performances presents Mark Morris's The Hard Nut; it's become part of Christmas for me.) And I have the impression that there is less non-holiday stuff going on this year than usual, and more of it seems to be happening very early in the month. So enjoy whatever holiday doings are precious to you, and let's let this year slip softly away.
Philharmonia Baroque has been concentrating on one city each concert, and on 6-8 and 10 December it follows up its terrific visits to Naples and St Petersburg with London; Nicholas McGegan is joined by soprano Yulia Van Doren and tenor Thomas Cooley in John Stanley's Concerto in B minor, Op. 2, No. 2, William Croft's The Burial Service, and William Boyce's Solomon. I'm really loving how much of their repertory this season has been rare and offbeat. OK, they're also performing Handel's Messiah, which is neither rare nor offbeat, but there are reasons it is so beloved, and you can discover or rediscover them 14-15 December (in association with Cal Performances). Speaking of Cal Performances, they also are presenting the Kronos Quartet's 40th Birthday concert, with a host of special guests and music by Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Bryce Dessner, and George Crumb. That's 7 December in Zellerbach Hall.
Shotgun Players continues its tradition of alternative holiday programming with Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness, written by Anthony Neilson and directed by Beth Wilmurt, which promises us "a sensual Edwardian world." I'm getting a steampunk vibe off this but I might be completely wrong; I myself won't find out until early January, but you can check it out between 5 December and 12 January 2014 at the Ashby Stage in Berkeley.
The Berkeley Symphony presents Brett Dean's Carlo for strings, sampler, and tape, inspired by the music of Carlo Gesualdo, along with cellist Peter Wyrick (a familiar face in the cello section of the San Francisco Symphony) playing Haydn's Cello Concerto No. 1 as well as the Brahms 2. Joana Carneiro conducts. That's 5 December at Zellerbach Hall on the Berkeley campus.
The Lacuna Arts Ensemble performs a cappella works by Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Hindemith, and Corigliano, along with Charpentier's Messe de minuit pour Noël accompanied by baroque instruments, on 15 December at 3:00 at St Luke's Episcopal Church (1755 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco; the cross street is Clay).
Magnificat, The Whole Noyse, and the San Francisco Early Music Society join forces to present a Venetian Christmas, featuring works by Gabrieli and Monteverdi, 20 - 22 December in Palo Alto, Berkeley, and San Francisco.