Best Denver classical music performances of spring 2020

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Every once in a while, the classical music calendar converges to create a snapshot of just how interesting — and how diverse —  the fine-arts scene can be in Denver.

That’s happening now. There are concerts in the works that are big and small, traditional and new, star-studded and community-minded — and some things in between. They’re also, lucky for us, high-quality.

Here are a few standouts.

Kronos Quartet, Newman Center Presents, March 17

Kronos has been setting the pace for classical quartets for 40 years, performing a whopping 950 commissions over its long history. It never gets old, thanks to a sky-high level of musicianship and an adventurous attitude that keeps every conceivable style of music on the table. This concert wraps into a residency with the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music and features the audience-friendly “Fifty for the Future,” along with “Peace Be Till,” inspired by MLK’s “I Have a Dream.”

The show is at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, on DU’s campus. 

“Here Be Siren,” Denver Immersive Opera, March 20-29

Denver Immersive Opera is exactly what the city’s dreary opera scene needs right now: something new, down-sized and willing to stick its neck out in the name of art. This presentation of Kate Soper’s “Here Be Siren” is all of those things. The piece, which The New York Times called “consistently funny, usually droll, occasionally uproarious,” updates classic storytelling with a plot centered on three mythical types stuck on an island and singing about it. They play, too, taking turns on piano solos. This is a co-production with the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.

Performances take place at the Newman Center’s Vocal Rehearsal Room on the DU campus.

A night of Spanish music, Denver Philharmonic, March 21

The Denver Philharmonic is all about good times and big concepts and this concert, titled “¡Olé!.” is what they do best. The theme, no surprise, is Spain, with a program built around the country’s superstar composers, Manuel de Falla and Enrique Granados. There’s also Deborah Henson-Conant’s “Soñado en Español,” which gives popular player Rebecca Moritzky a chance to show off her harp skills. José Miguel Rodilla, the Spanish-born and internationally famous conductor, leads from the podium.

The DPO performs at Central Presbyterian Church, 1660 Sherman St.

Alisa Weilerstein and Inon Barnatan, presented by Friends of Chamber Music, April 1

This concert is one of the highlights of Denver’s classical scene for all of 2020. Cellist Weilerstein, a MacArthur Fellow, is a fan favorite with mind-blowing talent and an innate sense of how to put on a show. Barnatan, one of the most popular players on the classical circuit, is comfortable at center stage or sharing the spotlight with other high-caliber musicians. Together, they’ll indulge in a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, performing the complete Beethoven Sonatas for cello and piano. It’ll be something.

The concert is set for Gates Hall in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts on the DU campus. 

Faculty Recital, Regis University, April 8

This is the kind of small — and interesting — event that slips under the radar. The concert features players from Denver’s notoriously excellent Playground Ensemble performing work by local composer, and now frequent collaborator, Loretta Notareschi. The program includes the world premiere of Notareschi’s “Gnomic Concerto for Piano and Chamber Ensemble” and it will spotlight New York Philharmonic pianist Steven Beck. Lots of good things happening at Regis these days; smart to keep an eye on the schedule.

The performance is at Claver Recital Hall, Regis University, 3333 Regis Boulevard.

Mendelssohn Trio, Trinity Presbyterian Church, April 14

Second Tuesdays at Trinity has been churning out top-notch music for years now. The atmosphere is casual and the prices are affordable, just $15 for adults and $10 for students (and the parking is free). It’s an excellent venue for intimate attractions, such as the Mendelssohn Trio, which performs an evening concert at the Arvada church on April 14. Mendelssohn’s players —  Erik Peterson on violin, Barbara Thiem on cello and Theodor Lichtmann on piano — are professors at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and have plenty of experience performing globally.

Trinity Presbyterian Church is at 7755 Vance Drive in Arvada.

Central City Opera’s “Smooth Operator,” at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, April 17

Good Shepherd’s Music with a Mission Concert Series is full of good intentions. The concerts are free but each event serves as an opportunity for a charity to raise funds via a “love offering.”  You don’t have to give, but you do get good music, in this case, Central City Opera Touring Artists’ Amanda Raddatz, Sarah Barber, Steve Taylor and Deborah Schmit-Lobis performing popular favorites. It’s an interesting mash-up of art and small-time philanthropy.

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church is located at 8545 E. Dry Creek Road, Centennial.

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