Twin Cities Early Music Festival

August can be a month of dog days for classical music lovers, with orchestras and concert organizations taking well-earned vacations. Into the vacuum steps this splendid festival. Now in its third year, the three-week extravaganza kicks off next weekend with four concerts. Saturday evening's double-header looks particularly attractive. First up is a fascinating program of music for the early Irish harp played by Ann and Charlie Heymann. Then festival director Donald Livingston accompanies soprano Maria Jette in a recital of vocal music from the baroque era. (6:30 & 8 p.m. Sat. Ultan Hall, University of Minnesota School of Music, 2106 S. 4th St., Mpls. $5-$15,


Once upon a time, performances of Mendelssohn's great oratorio "Elijah" were a dime a dozen. No longer: The splintering of choral singing into ever more specialized niche categories has made the grand Victorian choral concert a relative rarity. All the more reason to seek out the Oratorio Society of Minnesota's performance, in which a chorus of 164 singers, with orchestra and soloists led by Matthew Mehaffey, will tackle Mendelssohn's Old Testament masterpiece. Baritone Tyler Duncan sings the fiery prophet who razed false idols, prayed for rain and rode a chariot to heaven. (7.30 p.m. Sat. Ted Mann Concert Hall, University of Minnesota, Mpls. $10-$15,

A beautifully programmed chamber recital, with less familiar works by Rebecca Clarke, Carlos Salzedo and André Jolivet alongside Bach, Mozart and Debussy is the standout event as the Alexandria Festival of the Lakes opens. Players from the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra are among the soloists. (7 p.m. Sat. Alexandria United Methodist Church, Alexandria, Minn. $15,

The Neoteric Chamber Winds pride themselves on making music that isn't heard as often as it should be. Their latest concert features Pierre-Max Dubois' "Le Cinéma Muet," Marc Eychenne's "Sextuor," and Ronald Roseman's Double Quintet, with a pair of new pieces by local composers Michael Betz and Michael Wittgraff. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Roseville Lutheran Church, Roseville. Free.)

Arnold Schoenberg's heated, emotion-saturated string sextet "Verklärte Nacht" ("Transfigured Night") is the centerpiece of the opening chamber recital at Brainerd's Lakes Area Music Festival. A pair of Chopin nocturnes and Bach's towering Chaconne for Violin also are featured, with Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata thrown in to lighten the prevailing darkness. (7 p.m. Wed., Brainerd, Minn. Free,

Terry Blain