Putting class into the Xmas playlist

Anna Picard tells us how to avoid the Christmas schmaltz this winter
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The Independent Culture

Sick of Slade? The Christmas Festival at St John's Smith Square, London (020-722 1061) is an oasis for frazzled ears. From 18 December, The Cardinall's Musick, Elin Manahan Thomas, La Chapelle du Roi and The Tallis Scholars will explore music by Schtz, Scheidt, Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Tallis, Shephard, Lassus and Guerrero.

Meanwhile, Natalie Dessay (17 December)and Cecilia Bartoli (pictured) (19 December) are among the last brunettes to appear at the Barbican, London (0845 120 7500) before Raymond Gubbay presents Barbie™ at the Symphony on 2 January. Oh dear.

Pink-phobic parents might do better to wait until 13 January, when Birmingham Contemporary Music Group gives two family-friendly concerts by Knussen, Stravinsky, Reich and Boulez at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham (0121-767 4050). Elsewhere, January is the month for voices. A survey of Strauss lieder at Wigmore Hall, London (020-7935 2141) sees Elizabeth Watts, Rachel Nicholls, Rebecca Bottone, Daniel Norman, Benjamin Bevan and Nathan Vale join pianist Paul Plummer (4 to 6 January).

At the Barbican, Ian Bost-ridge's Homeward Bound series continues with an evening of Schubert lieder with Dorothea Rschmann, Thomas Quasthoff and Julius Drake on 14 January. A late-night cabaret of songs by Cole Porter, Noël Coward and Kurt Weill will be at LSO St Luke's (020-7566 2871) with Sophie Daneman, also on 14 January.

From the Canyons to the Stars, the comprehensive celebration of Olivier Messaien's music is at the South Bank Centre, London (0871 663 2500). The series starts on 3 February, with a study of the Quartet for the End of Time led by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the Nash Ensemble and a performance of Des Canyons aux toiles by Ensemble Intercontemporain.

Events continue throughout February at the Royal Academy of Music and at the South Bank, where Aimard will be joined by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, Cynthia Millar, Peter Eotvos and the London Sinfonietta.