You can't go wrong with the Cleveland Orchestra and Brahms. There's an old set of recordings by the orchestra with its legendary music director, George Szell, which functions for me as the gold standard by which all Brahms performances are measured. In the piano concertos, the partnership of Szell and Rudolf Serkin with the orchestra is unparalleled.
Now Florida listeners have a chance to hear how the current orchestra and its music director, Franz Welser-Most, stack up against the glorious past. They play the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with a powerful soloist, Yefim Bronfman, Monday night at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota. The program also includes the Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 and Smetana's From Bohemia's Fields and Forests.
The Cleveland Orchestra is passing through on its way to the first part of its annual residency Friday and Saturday at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. It also plays Wednesday at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
The touring symphony orchestra is becoming an endangered species in Florida. Not many years ago, orchestras from around the country and the world were common during the winter, especially at Van Wezel, which would have as many as six in a season. In 2011-12, however, Cleveland is the only orchestra being presented there, though the long-running Sarasota Concert Association (sarasotaconcertassociation.org) continues to rent the hall to present orchestras on tour, including the Minnesota Orchestra on March 7.
The Cleveland Orchestra concert is at 8 p.m. Monday. $30-$100. (941) 953-3368; vanwezel.org.
Chamber music, more
A program of Baroque music opens this year's Encore chamber music series in St. Petersburg. The Florida Pro Musica Chamber Ensemble — Judson Griffin, violin; Javier Caballero, cello; and Larry Kent, harpsichord; with soprano Maggie Coleman — perform works of Vivaldi, Telemann and Bach (on period instruments) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Palladium Theater. $20. (727) 822-3590; mypalladium.org.
Two other, wildly different, performances this week are worth noting:
• Pianist Gil Fischer, who turns 95 this month, is giving Anton Coppola, Opera Tampa's 94-year-old music director, a run for the longevity in music record. Fischer still plays recitals, with his latest including Bach (Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue), Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata and the four Debussy Etudes. He also writes the best program notes in town. Nobody else would liken the contrast between Bach and Beethoven to that of Sophocles and Euripides. 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Music Gallery, 5990 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater. Free. (727) 530-3304; musiccgalleryclearwater. com.
• In a presentation of the USF Institute for Research in Art, vocalist, composer and performance artist Shelley Hirsch interprets and performs to visual artist Christian Marclay's Manga Scroll, a 60-foot hand scroll composed of collaged onomatopoeias (words that imitate or suggest the source of the sounds they describe, like zip or meow) from Japanese comics. The two also perform Zoom Zoom, another piece involving onomatopoeias. 7 p.m. Thursday, USF School of Music Concert Hall, Tampa. $10, $15. (813) 974-2323.
Big screen, big sound
The movies may not be doing a booming business these days, but concerts and operas and plays on the silver screen are thriving, led, of course, by the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday matinees in live high-definition transmissions (next is Wagner's Gotterdammerung Feb. 11). Here are three on the agenda:
• Three Superstars in Berlin features soprano Anna Netrebko and her husband, baritone Erwin Schott, and tenor Jonas Kaufmann in a concert of opera arias and duets and musical theater numbers. 7 p.m. Thursday and Feb. 1 at Baywalk 20 in St. Petersburg, Starlight 20 in Tampa and Palm Harbor 10. $20. Aceartshd.com.
• The Goat Rodeo Sessions Live is a bluegrass crossover project with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolinist Chris Thile and singer Aoife O'Donovan broadcast live from the House of Blues in Boston at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 at Citrus Stadium Park Mall 20, Tampa. $15. Fathomevents.com.
• LA Phil Live on Feb. 18 has music director Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, multiple choirs and soloists in Mahler's gigantic Symphony of a Thousand (No. 8) from Caracas, Venezuela, at 5 p.m. Feb. 18 at AMC Woodland Square 20 in Oldsmar, Park Place Stadium 16 in Pinellas Park, Citrus Stadium Park Mall 20 in Tampa, Hyde Park Cinebistro in Tampa, AMC Regency 20 in Brandon and Grove 16 Cinemas in Wesley Chapel. $20. Fathomevents.com.
John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.