The BSO starts the classical new year off right: its famous music director designate, James Levine, will conduct Roger Sessionsís Piano Concerto, with Robert Taub, on a program with John Harbisonís Third Symphony and the Brahms First (January 9-11). There will also be a string of world premieres, BSO commissions from some of the worldís most admired composers. Oscar winner Tan Dun leads a program of Shostakovich, Cage, Britten, and his own multimedia concerto for cello and orchestra, The Map, with Yo-Yo Ma (February 27 and 28, March 1 and 4). Bernard Haitink conducts Harbisonís new Requiem, with soprano Christine Brewer, mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimore, tenor Paul Groves, bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu, and John Oliverís Tanglewood Festival Chorus, along with Beethovenís Symphony No. 4 (March 20-22 and 25). Ingo Metzmacher will bring us Elliott Carterís new Boston Concerto plus Charles Ivesís Three Places in New England, selections from Mahlerís Des Knaben Wunderhorn, with baritone Matthias Goerne, and the Suite from Bartókís The Miraculous Mandarin (April 10-12 and 15). And Kurt Masur leads a new piece by Tatar composer Sofia Gubaidulina along with Prokofievís Classical Symphony and Tchaikovskyís Pathétique (April 24-26).
Iím also looking forward to the program led by Gennady Rozhdestvensky, a rare performance of Stravinskyís "melodrama" Persephone, narrated by Marthe Keller, and Prokofievís complete ballet Chout (April 17-19), as well as to Ton Koopman conducting countertenor Andreas Scholl in Bachís Cantata No. 170 (January 23-25 and 28), Alan Gilbert playing Leon Kirchnerís Music for Orchestra II (February 20-22 and 25), and David Robertson returning with Synergy Vocals for Luciano Berioís Sinfonia along with Debussyís Jeux and Stravinskyís 1919 Firebird Suite (March 27-29). For information, call (617) 266-1492.
The FleetBoston Celebrity Series is bringing two of the worldís other great orchestras. The Cleveland, under new director Franz Welser-Möst, will do Kaija Saariahoís Orion and Mahlerís Seventh Symphony (February 9), and Nikolaus Harnoncourt will lead the Vienna Philharmonic in works by Johann and Josef Strauss and Beethovenís Pastorale Symphony (February 28). Other attractive Celebrity Series items include superstar tenor Ben Heppner (January 11), cellist Yo-Yo Ma with pianist Kathryn Stott (January 22), the Mark Morris Dance Group (March 13-16), mezzo-soprano Margaret Lattimoreís recital in the Boston Marquee series (March 15), composer/pianist William Bolcom and mezzo-soprano Joan Morris (March 22), the Brentano String Quartet (April 4), Slovenian pianist Dubravka Tomsic (April 6), and pianist Robert Levinís Boston Marquee recital, with another John Harbison premiere, his Second Piano Sonata (April 13). Call (617) 482-2595.
Emmanuel Music will complete its seven-year Schubert vocal and chamber cycle with concerts at Suffolk Universityís C. Walsh Theatre (January 5, February 23, March 9, May 4, and May 11) and a concert performance of Schubertís neglected Alfonson und Estrella, with a cast thatíll feature baritones Sanford Sylvan and James Maddalena, at Emmanuel Church (February 1). Call (617) 536-3356. And mezzo-soprano Jane Struss will be performing Schubertís great song cycle Winterreise, with pianist Brian Moll, for Janus 21 at Longy School (January 24). Call (617) 734-5174.
David Hoose and the Cantata Singers are offering a welcome semi-staged performance of Stravinskyís operatic masterpiece, The Rakeís Progress, at Jordan Hall (January 24 and 26). Call (617) 267-6502. And the Boston Early Music Festival is bringing back the astonishing viola da gambist Paolo Pandolfo, the big hit of the last Boston Early Music Festival, at the First Congregational Church in Cambridge (January 18). Call (617) 661-1812.
The highlight of Boston Lyric Operaís spring schedule may be Pucciniís rarely performed quasi-operetta, La rondine ("The Swallow"), which has one of his most ravishing arias, the "Song of Doretta" (Shubert Theatre, March 26, 28, 30, April 1, 4, 6, and 8). Call (617) 542-6772. And the rip-roaring Teatro Lirico díEuropa will be back with Mussorgskyís epic Boris Godunov, with members of Opera Bolshoi and the Sofia National Opera (Jordan Hall, March 18 and 19). Call (410) 527-3508.
One of the seasonís most exciting projects is a joint venture between the Boston Academy of Music and Gil Roseís Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Opera Unlimited, a week of contemporary operas at Mass College of Artís Tower Auditorium, will include two world premieres. The first, Daniel Pinkhamís The Cask of Amontillado, shares a bill with his Garden Party (February 6 and 9); the second, Elena Ruehrís Toussaint Before the Spirits, shares a bill with John Harbisonís setting of Yeatsís A Full Moon in March (February 7 and 9). Weíll also get Powder Her Face, by the shining light of younger British composers, Thomas AdŹs (February 8 and 11). Call (617) 242-7311. On their own, at MITís Kresge Auditorium, Rose and BMOP are presenting the American premiere of Tod Machoverís Toy Symphony (April 26). Call (617) 363-0396.