April showers: a classical deluge is forecast for this month

April showers: a classical deluge is forecast for this month
The Madison Bach Musicians offer a special performance of Handel's 'Messiah' on April 8 and 10.

If it feels like every classical event between now and Concerts on the Square is squeezed into the month of April, blame it on the king of beasts. Or more specifically, chalk it up to the return of “The Lion King” to Overture Center in May, to remain in full-throated roar (and sold-out houses) until mid-June. Consequently, the usual crush of musical events will be busier than ever for the next four weeks. Here are the highlights.

Most folks’ acquaintance with Handel’s “Messiah” comes from that great “Hallelujah” chorus (which, by the way, is usually performed at Christmas—but it’s really an Easter work!). And even if you do hear the whole work, it’s often with large orchestra, huge chorus and all the trappings known as “tradition.” But what would it have been like when Handel first performed it in the early 1740s?

Now you can find out. On April 8 and 10, the Madison Bach Musicians continue their season with as close a recreation of Handel’s masterpiece as we’re likely to encounter: Baroque valveless trumpets, calfskin timpani and other authentic instruments in a correctlymsized orchestra will be led by Marc Vallon, with eight soloists and singers from the Madison Boychoir (part of Madison Youth Choirs). Friday night at 7:30 or Sunday afternoon at 3:30, get yourself to the First Congregational Church. In fact, arrive 45 minutes early to hear MBM director Trevor Stephonson’s pre-concert lecture.

A perfect way to perk up the middle of the work week is to attend the next concert of what we might call our “little orchestra that could”—the Middleton Community Orchestra. Kyle Knox, who continued to build his impressive career the last couple of months at both Madison Opera and University Opera, returns to conduct a modest length program of Wagner and Sibelius. The orchestra consistently gets strong reviews from the local critics, and as it’s been a couple of seasons since yours truly has weighed in, I hope to catch up with the young maestro and these passionate players again. It starts at 7:30 p.m. on April 13 at the Middleton Performing Arts Center (at Middleton High School); students are admitted for free and an enticing reception follows.

April 15 and 17 mark the final production of Madison Opera‘s season with one of the most unique operas in the repertoire, “The Tales of Hoffman.” Jacques Offenbach’s tale is a mixture of romance and dark underpinnings that combines charming and powerful music with a drama that can be interpreted in many ways. John DeMain returns to lead a strong cast that again mixes company debuts with young artists whose careers are taking off. Performance times are 8 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall.

The following Friday, April 22, marks the close of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra‘s Masterworks Series, and maestro Andrew Sewell again has a compelling blend of piano concertos of Field and Mozart, with acclaimed soloist John O’Conor, and works by Stravinsky and Weber. They’ll hold forth in the Capitol Theater one more time, at 8 p.m., before kicking off Concerts on the Square at the end of June.

And to close the big orchestral events of the season at the Overture Center, the Madison Symphony Orchestra returns April 29-May 1 with one of the 20th century’s greatest guilty pleasures, “Carmina Burana.” Carl Orff’s irresistibly infectious setting of texts by a band of essentially defrocked monks is a perfect way to shake off any lingering winter blues—and it gives the Madison Symphony Chorus and soloists Jeni Houser, Thomas Leighton and Keith Phares more than a few chances to shake the rafters. Throw in Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” to let the orchestra show off alone one last time this season, and a great time is guaranteed for all. See you in the will-call line!