Long before orchestras were common, individuals and small groups of performers played chamber music in homes and castles. As presented in recitals, duets, trios, quartets or in other modest-size groupings, chamber music remains a widespread genre.
The Bay Area is especially rich in such events. A significant number of them are moderately priced and many are free.
Here is a sampling of a few exceptional offerings this month:
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra presents its second free student concert of the season Jan. 21. It will feature 15-year-old Hilda Huang on harpsichord, the youngest soloist the group has presented.
Still a San Francisco Conservatory of Music student, Huang also is an aspiring conductor, having appeared in that capacity with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. And she is scheduled to lead the San Francisco Bach Choir and Baroque Orchestra.
In concert, Huang will perform the Bach Concerto for Harpsichord in D Major. The program features commentary by musicians about their instruments and excerpts of Telemann’s “Alster Overture,” which musically depicts a German lake. Sounds of frogs, swans and crows will be demonstrated. [1 p.m. Jan. 21. Free. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 252-1288, www.philharmonia.org]
San Francisco Performances presents the winner of the prestigious Naumburg Awards. This year, it is pianist Soyeon Lee. At 31, the Korean-born artist has won numerous awards and played recitals in important venues. The program will be announced at the concert, but Lee’s repertory favors Ravel, Albeniz, Prokofiev and Scarlatti. [5 p.m. Sunday. $25. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 398-6449, www.performances.org]
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, led by Nicholas McGegan, has a new chamber music series beginning this month, with programs staged in the Conservatory of Music’s 400-seat concert hall.
“So much of the wonderful music composed in the baroque and classical periods was written for chamber groups,” McGegan says, “and the Philharmonia Baroque experience has also always been about creating an intimate musical experience for our audience and musicians.”
The January concert “Viva Vivaldi!” features violinists Cynthia Miller Freivogel and Carla Moore, cellist William Skeen, David Tayler on archlute and Baroque guitar, and Hanneke van Proosdij playing recorder and harpsichord. [2 p.m. Jan. 23. $25-$30. Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., S.F., (415) 252-1288, www.cityboxoffice.com]
Before the New Century Chamber Orchestra leaves on tour through California and the Midwest, the musicians play a kickoff gala Jan. 29, and offer an open rehearsal two days before.
The program features orchestral arrangements of Wolf’s “Italian Serenade” and Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” along with Bartók’s “Romanian Folk Dances” and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major. [10 a.m. Jan. 27; 8 p.m. Jan. 29. $8-$49. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 392-4400, www.ncco.org]