Hundreds of symphony, opera, chamber music and dance performances are slated for the first half of 2011. To narrow the focus, here’s a look at some notable upcoming presentations offered not by The City’s big, long-established groups, but by small- and medium-sized organizations.
San Francisco Performances' long-running series of Saturday morning concerts opens with a program of Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. The last century's two greatest Hungarian composers will be represented by their first string quartets. As usual in the series, musicologist Robert Greenberg will introduce the works, to be performed by the Alexander String Quartet. Greenberg's lectures are informative, entertaining and often hilarious. The quartet — Zakarias Grafilo (violin), Frederick Lifsitz (violin), Paul Yarbrough (viola) and Sandy Wilson (cello) — is among the very best. [10 a.m. Jan. 15. $25-$46. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.; (415) 392-2545, www.performances.org]
In the Tudor splendor of Kohl Mansion — where Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks filmed "Little Lord Fauntleroy" in 1921 — the Miró Quartet performs a concert. Starting at Oberlin Conservatory 15 years ago, the still-youthful foursome will play quartets by Schubert and Beethoven, including the latter's Great Fugue, Op. 133. Mansion amenities include a pre-concert lecture and a post-concert reception with the artists. [7 p.m. Jan. 23. $15-$45. Kohl Mansion, 2750 Adeline Drive, Burlingame; (650) 762-1130, www.musicatkohl.org]
Montalvo Arts Center's intimate chamber-music series is hitting the big time with the engagement of Lang Lang. At 28, the Chinese pianist has two decades of performances and fame under his belt, and he is said to have influenced 40 million children in his country to learn classical piano. He is on Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" list, no less. Lang Lang's program includes Bach's Partita No. 1, Schubert's Sonata in B-flat Major, and Chopin's Twelve Etudes, Op. 25. [7:30 p.m. Jan. 23. 55-$100. California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose; (408) 286-2600, www.montalvoarts.org]
The always-adventurous Left Coast Chamber Ensemble opens the year with a concert called "Root Causes." The program fuses a variety of cultures: a Czech folk-music inspired trio by Antonin Dvorak; a jazz-influenced work by contemporary composer John Musto; a Yom Kippur melody, "Abodah," by Ernest Bloch; and "Four Remixes for Piano Trio." The last is a world premiere of arrangements of popular songs by Left Coast's founding artistic director Kurt Rohde, including music by the Beatles, the B-52s, Elton John and Joni Mitchell. [8 p.m. Jan. 24. $15-$20. Green Room, Veterans War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 642-8054, www.leftcoastensemble.org]
Hope Mohr Dance opens its fourth home season with its own unusual world premiere and a new work from New York's Liz Gerring Dance Company. Mohr is the choreographer for "The Unsayable," a project bringing together war veterans and professional dancers to explore personal stories through movement and text. The approach was developed by Mohr in 2008, working on "Under the Skin" with cancer patients. Gerring's work, yet unnamed, concentrates on the creation of images abstracted from everyday life. [March 3-6. $18-$25. Z Space@Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St., S.F.; (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/13855]
ODC/Dance choreographers Brenda Way, KT Nelson and Kimi Okada all present world premieres for the company's 40th season. Born at Oberlin, the now thoroughly San Francisco company features a fascinating nine-performance home stand of three programs in the spring. Way's new work is "Speaking Volumes: Architecture of Light II," with music by Jay Cloidt. Nelson's contribution, a collaboration with movement artist Shinichi Iova-Koga, is "Listening Last." Okada’s piece is about humorous and often awkward attempts at cross-cultural understanding. [March 11-27. $10-$60. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., S.F.; (415) 978-2787, www.odcdance.org]
Few names resonate in the world of classical music like "Flicka," the nickname of Bay Area mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. Music Director Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonic Baroque Orchestra feature the beloved singer, champion of all good causes, giving an endless series of benefit concerts, in what is likely to be the finale to a remarkable 40-year career. She performs the U.S. premiere of "Into the Bright Lights," with music by Nathaniel Stookey and lyrics from her own poetry, about singing and aging.
[8 p.m. March 4. $30-$90. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.; (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com]