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Dallas’ Best Classical Music Events in March

Soprano Pumeza Matshikiza stars in La Bohème at the Dallas Opera starting on March 15.EXPAND
Soprano Pumeza Matshikiza stars in La Bohème at the Dallas Opera starting on March 15.
courtesy Decca Records / Simon Fowler

There’s a lot more classical music in Dallas than just our world-class symphony and the glamorous opera house next door. But many of the events elsewhere in town are hard to find or downright obscure. Over the years, we’ve missed many exciting concerts because we just didn’t know they existed. Who knew classical music fans were so low-key at promoting events? OK, we probably could have guessed that.

Starting with March, we’ll try to round up a monthly preview of classical music events coming to Dallas, big or small, glamorous or not. This is a curated list, so not every concert will appear here, and it’s also a highly opinionated list. So let’s get started with the opinions right away: The two best concerts this March involve outstanding visiting string quartets.

Table for four, please
On Saturday, March 9, the Alexander String Quartet comes to town from San Francisco, where they act as the Bay’s unofficial quartet-in-residence. This group has been together for 38 years and they’re celebrating a decade of collaborations with Joyce Yang, the pianist who won silver in the 2005 Van Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth. Yang joins the ASQ at Moody Performance Hall for three works, about a half-hour each, featuring all five players: quintets by Robert Schumann, Antonin Dvorak and Samuel Carl Adams.

Sam Adams comes from a composing family; his father, John Adams, conducted two of his works with the Dallas Symphony in January. Sam’s piano quintet, which received its world premiere just weeks ago from the same performers, is, according to ASQ cellist Alexander Walsh-Wilson, “a surprising work and completely original. There’s nothing like it.”

Nine days later, the Pavel Haas Quartet arrives at SMU’s Caruth Auditorium. Their program leans heavily on Shostakovich — right in the wheelhouse for a group whose most memorable trait is its ferocious, high-energy style. Forget being on the edge of your seat; they’re on the edges of theirs while playing, and sometimes they perform standing up.

An unreasonable number of candles
On March 21, SMU will celebrate Johann Sebastian Bach’s 334th birthday with a program of Bach concertos. Professors Emanuel Borok and Aaron Boyd appear as soloists backed by a select group of SMU students. Intriguingly, the performance takes place “among the collections of the Meadows Museum.”

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Old movie, new tunes
The Dallas Chamber Symphony makes a specialty of playing music to accompany screenings of silent movies, and the latest installment is on March 23. It’s a revival of Bumping into Broadway, a Harold Lloyd comedy about two struggling, young theater types who run up against an evil landlady named Bearcat and a speakeasy visit that ends in a police chase. All the while, the DCSO plays along with a musical score they commissioned from composer Rolfe Kent. You may not recognize Kent’s name, but you’ve already seen movies with his music — he wrote the scores for Legally Blonde, Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls and Sideways. Before the movie starts, there’s a brand-new piece called “Rocky Summer” written for the DCSO by local composer Kim Osberg.

What’s happening at the Dallas Symphony?
The Dallas Symphony’s classical series includes four consecutive weekends in March, including the one just concluded. The highlight is a trio of concerts March 14-16 featuring former music director Jaap van Zweden, making his first return to Dallas since taking over the New York Philharmonic last fall. He’ll be conducting an all-Germanic program of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony and Robert Schumann’s piano concerto, with poetic, French-Canadian guest pianist Louis Lortie. If you want to go but missed out on tickets, fear not: A new concert was just added to accommodate demand.

The other two DSO weekends are maybe less attention-getting. First up, on March 7-10, is a program featuring Respighi’s Pines of Rome, which the Dallas Symphony last performed just two years ago. Then, March 21-24, internationally acclaimed pianist Helene Grimaud arrives to play Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. My college class once got to meet Grimaud after a concert in Houston. A fellow student asked her what advice she would give to a young pianist just starting out. The answer: “If you can do anything else, do that instead.”

What’s happening at the Dallas Opera?
If you like melodramatic love stories that take place in Italian, you’re in luck! The Dallas Opera is spending its March presenting not one, but two operas by Giacomo Puccini, and both revolve around ill-fated romances. Manon Lescaut, which is only getting a “semi-staged” performance, closes on Saturday, March 9; La bohème opens on March 15, featuring South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza.

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