Despite the most conscientious preparations, the sheer pace of Advent always comes as a surprise, leaving us wondering where the time has gone and yearning for a pause in the Yuletide rush. But for music lovers, relief is at hand, with diverse treats providing an alternative to the  round of mince pies and carols.

For instance, on Wednesday, December 14, the Royal Festival Hall offers a classic vocal and orchestral occasion: Strauss’s sumptuous Four Last Songs delivered by one of the reigning divas of the day, Renée Fleming. Christoph Eschenbach conducts the London Philharmonic in a programme including Wagner’s Tannhäuser overture and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony (0844 875 0073; www.southbankcentre.co.uk). And those unable to savour the experience in person can listen to it on Radio 3, both live as it occurs and for a week after on the invaluable iPlayer.

During that same week, until the 20th, the Spitalfields Music Winter Festival (020-7377 1362; www.spitalfieldsmusic.org.uk) casts its net beyond Christmas, with a series of ingenious concerts in historic settings. Among them, on the 16th, I Fagiolini celebrates its 25th birthday at Shoreditch Church, encompassing drama and song from Monteverdi to Britten, then, on the following night, the European Union Baroque Orchestra explores the intriguing cusp between the Baroque and classical styles. On the 18th, Harry Christophers and The  Sixteen combine music and cuisine, interspersing a two-course meal  with ?mini-concerts’ at the Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle. And the festival ends with a seasonal bow: a performance of Messiah amid the splendid surroundings of Christ Church Spitalfields by La Nuova Musica.

Last chance to see

It’s a wrap: a year devoted to the myriad wonders of Mozart Unwrapped comes to an end with his Requiem (but Brahms is just around the corner). December 19, Kings Place (020-7520 1490; www.kingsplace.co.uk).