From Adams to Zorn, Chicago’s music season brings a wealth of riches across all genres

Mon Sep 08, 2014 at 9:27 pm

By Dennis Polkow

Renee Fleming stars in Richard Strauss's "Capriccio," which opens October 6 at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Photo: Ken Howard

Renée Fleming stars in Richard Strauss’s “Capriccio,” which opens October 6 at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Photo: Ken Howard

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera remain healthy and vibrant. Yet among Chicago’s performing organizations, it is hard not to notice that other mid-size and smaller area music organizations have cut back programming or performances this season, or are increasingly pandering to pop culture populism.

Some have even called it quits altogether, most notably the Chicago Chamber Musicians, after 28 years of stalwart service. Others seem reluctant to announce a spring season, perhaps waiting to see what the fall may bring. Others have yet to announce specific season plans at all.

Here is a sampling of the upcoming 2014-15 classical music season in Chicago:


Chicago Symphony Orchestra (

Music director Riccardo Muti is beginning his fifth season as music director, the last of his original contract, and has already signed a second five-year contract that will take his music directorship through 2020.

It will be very interesting to see what kind of an institution emerges with former CEO and president Deborah Rutter and 35-year vice president of artistic planning Martha Gilmer now both gone as Muti begins to wield his immense influence on the administrative side of the CSO organization.

Heads have already turned at last week’s surprise announcement of the appointment of Jeff Alexander as the CSO’s new CEO and president. Alexander, who will start in January 2015, comes to the largest orchestral organization in the United States from running the third-largest orchestra in Canada, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Muti will conduct ten weeks of subscription concerts in Chicago as well as lead the CSO on a three-week European tour in October and November including the orchestra’s first-ever performances in Warsaw along with three performances at Carnegie Hall in January and February.

The season will open with Muti’s first-ever Chicago performances of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony with soprano Camilla Nylund, Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova in her CSO debut, tenor Christopher Ventris and bass-baritone Eric Owens and the Chicago Symphony Chorus (Sept. 18, 21 & 23) which will also be repeated as the featured work of the Symphony Ball (Sept. 20).

For the first time in Muti’s music directorship, this year’s free community concert does not directly open the season; it takes place in Millennium Park and is an all-Tchaikovsky affair. In a humorous salute to the thousands who sat out in the rain the last time Muti and the CSO played the park two years ago, the concert opens with The Tempest. Also included are the Suite from The Sleeping Beauty, and the Fourth Symphony (Sept. 19); the Fourth will also be heard on the first season subscription program along with Debussy’s La mer but the opening work alternates between The Tempest, Berlioz’s Waverley Overture and Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Sept. 25-30).  Muti has thus far done little Tchaikovsky in Chicago, but this year is doing a complete symphony cycle and other works across the season as part of a focus on comparing and contrasting two Russian masters, one popular, the other less-known and to Muti’s mind, unjustly neglected: Tchaikovsky and Scriabin.

Scriabin has long been championed by Muti, who recorded a revelatory Scriabin cycle when he was in Philadelphia; the composer’s death centennial is being commemorated in 2015. Four of the five Scriabin symphonies will be heard: the First Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Chorus on a program with Prokofiev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky with mezzo-soprano Alisa Kolosova and Russian tenor Sergey Skorokhodov in his CSO debut (Jan. 22-24 & Feb. 1); the Secon with Tchaikovsky’s Sixth (Pathétique) Symphony (Feb. 26-28, March 3); the Third (The Divine Poem) together with repeats of Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage and Debussy’s La mer (Jan. 27, 30); and the Fourth (The Poem of Ecstasy) with Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony (June 11-13).

As has been typical of Muti’s CSO seasons, new music of any kind—let alone new American music–remains in short supply. There will be only two world premieres during the entire season, and those were built-in as a consequence of the culmination of the five-year residencies of co-composers-in-residence Mason Bates and Anna Clyne; Muti is conducting only one of them.

Muti will close out the season with the world premiere of Bates’ Anthology of Fantastic Zoology paired with the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony (June 18-20). Clyne’s Violin Concerto will be conducted by Ludovic Morlet with Jennifer Koh as soloist on a program that will also include Berlioz’ Les francs-juges Overture and the Beethoven Third Symphony (May 28-June 2).

Riccardo Muti will conduct  symphonies of Tchaikovsky and Scriabin throughout the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's season.

Riccardo Muti will conduct symphonies of Tchaikovsky and Scriabin throughout the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s season.

The Andrzej Panufnik centennial will be noted by a Muti-led performance of Panufnik’s Concerto in modo antico with principal trumpet Christopher Martin as soloist in a program that will also include Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and the Tchaikovsky Third (Polish) Symphony (Oct. 2-4).

Muti will conduct the Mozart Requiem with soprano Rosa Feola, mezzo-soprano Alisa Kolosova, tenor Saimir Pirgu and bass Michele Pertuson with the Chicago Symphony Chorus on an all-Mozart program that will also include Piano Concerto No. 24 with Rudolf Buchbinder as soloist (Feb. 19-24) and will conduct music of Ligeti with the CSO for the first time, his Lontano, on a program that will also include Beethoven’s Triple Concerto — with CSO associate concertmaster Stephanie Jeong, assistant principal cello Kenneth Olsen and pianist Jonathan Biss — and the Tchaikovsky Second (Little Russian) Symphony (March 5-7).

The 90th birthday of composer/conductor Pierre Boulez will be marked with a performance of his Figures-Doubles-Prismes conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado on a program that will also include music associated with Boulez as a conductor: Debussy’s Ibéria from Images and the Bartók Third Piano Concerto with Alice Sara Ott as soloist in her CSO debut (Nov. 12-15). Boulez will also be the subject of a special Beyond the Score program called Boulez at 90: Provisionally definitive (Nov. 14 & 16).

French music is also a catch-all theme of the season, including a three-week “Reveries and Passion” festival in May curated and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen that will include a performance of Ravel’s one-act opera, L’enfant et les sortilèges with the CSO debuts of French soprano Chloé Briot and French mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa, along with Debussy’s cantata La damoiselle élue and Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye Suite (May 7-15).

Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande will be performed with baritone Stéphane Degout as Pelléas, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice as Mélisande, and bass-baritones Eric Owens and Willard White as Golaud and Arkel, respectively. (May 14-19). The festival concludes with a rare performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-symphonie on a program that also includes Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist and Debussy’s Syrinx performed by CSO principal flute Mathieu Dufour (May 21-23).

Charles Dutoit returns for a two-week residency spotlighting French repertoire: Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, D’Indy’s Symphony on a French Mountain Air and Suite No. 2 from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe and Franck’s Symphonic Variations with pianist Louis Lortie (March 12-17) and Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, Debussy’s Symphonic Fragments from The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, Saint-Saëns’ La muse et le poète and Lalo’s Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist (March 19-21).

Former CSO principal conductor Bernard Haitink returns to lead Mahler’s Seventh Symphony (April 9-14) and Jaap van Zweden returns to conduct the Mahler Fifth Symphony and Bartók’s Two Rhapsodies for Violin and Orchestra with CSO concertmaster Robert Chen as soloist (Oct. 9-12), along with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and orchestral songs of Schubert and Richard Strauss with baritone Matthias Goerne (Feb. 5-8).

Mitsuko Uchida returns for her annual appearances with the CSO, leading Mozart Piano Concertos No. 6 and No. 26 (Coronation) from the piano. She will also be joined by German soprano Dorothea Röschmann in Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -leben. (April 2-4).  German conductor Ingo Metzmacher returns to the CSO for the first time in a decade to lead an all-Russian program that includes Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 (The Year 1905) Stravinsky’s Petrushka and opens with excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (Dec. 4-9).

Other returning guest conductors include Cristian Macelaru (Nov. 7-8), Nicholas Kraemer leading the complete Bach Brandenburg Concertos from the harpsichord (Nov. 20-25), Manfred Honeck (Dec. 11-16), Carlos Miguel Prieto (Dec. 18-20), Vasily Petrenko (Jan. 8-10), Edo de Waart (March 26-29) Semyon Bychkov (April 16-21 and April 23-26), Henry Bicket (April 30, May 1 & 2) and Ludovic Morlot (May 28, 30 & June 2 and June 4 & 6).

Ars Viva Orchestra (

With programs and performances that are innovative, polished and accessible, Alan Heatherington’s Ars Viva Orchestra offers a diversity of symphonic repertoire with Heatherington curating each program with eloquent and engaging commentary.

Ars Viva opens its season with a rare performance of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole with Chicago Symphony Orchestra assistant concertmaster and Ars Viva concertmaster David Taylor as soloist on a program that also includes Dvořák’s Carnival Overture and the Brahms Fourth Symphony (Sept. 28).

Other programs include an all-Beethoven concert featuring the Coriolan Overture, the Fourth Piano Concerto with Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein soloist and the Fourth Symphony (Dec. 7); double violin concertos by Malcolm Arnold and Bach with Taylor and Ilya Kaler as soloists, Elliott Carter’s Elegy and Grieg’s Quartet arranged for string orchestra (March 1) and Nielson’s Maskerade: Overture and Cockerel’s Dance, a TBA concerto with the winner of the 2015 Music Institute of Chicago Concerto Competition and Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony (April 12).

The season finale is an all-Shakespeare themed program that includes Erich Korngold’s Suite from Much Ado About Nothing, David Diamond’s Music for Romeo and Juliet, Dvořák’s Othello and overtures to The Taming of the Shrew by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Julius Caesar by Schumann (May 17).

Ars Viva performances take place Sunday afternoons at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Chicago Philharmonic (

The Chicago Philharmonic is made up largely of players from the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Grant Park Orchestra. Scott Speck, also music director of the Joffrey Ballet, begins his second season as artistic director.The orchestra plays five Sundays per season in addition to its regular performances with the Joffrey and at the Ravinia Festival.

The season opener, “Nordic Sounds,” spotlights Danish themes and composers and includes Danish violinist Christina Åstrand performing the Midwest premiere of Niels Gade’s Violin Concerto along with Tchaikovsky’s Overture to Hamlet, Arvo Pärt’s whimsical If Bach Had Been a Beekeeper and Nielsen’s First Symphony (Sept. 21).  Other programs include guest conductor Joel Smirnoff conducting Rossini and Haydn with soprano Asako Tamura performing Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and arias by Mozart (Nov. 16); violinist David Perry leading Johann Strauss, Martinu’s La revue de cuisine, Milhaud’s Le boeuf sur le toit and Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola with soloists Perry and Carol Cook (Feb. 15); pianist Jorge Federico Osorio as the soloist for de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand on a program that also includes Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and La mer (April 19). The season finale will celebrate art in music and includes Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral, Kenji Bunch’s First Symphony after Roy Lichtenstein and Mussorgsky-Ravel’s Pictures at an Exhibition (June 7). Concerts are held in Evanston at Northwestern University’s Pick-Staiger Hall or the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall.

David Danzmayr opens the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra's season October 18 and include an American work on every program.

David Danzmayr opens the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra’s season October 18 and will include an American work on every program.

Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra (

Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra music director David Danzmayr return for a third season filled with innovative programming. The young Austrian conductor will lead all IPO concerts and is taking the 37-year old south suburban orchestra to new heights.

The season opens with William Grant Still’s The American Scene (The East), Gulda’s Concerto for Myself with pianist Lisa Smirmova and the Beethoven Fifth Symphony (Oct. 18).

Other concerts include “Vocal Mastery” presents Bavarian soprano Kathrin Danzmayr and former Ryan Center bass-baritone David Govertsen in the Chicago premiere of selections from Gordon Getty’s opera Plump Jack as well as Schubert and Richard Strauss orchestral songs in a program that includes Sibelius’ First Symphony (Nov. 14); a Family Pops Program featuring Music for the Movies (Dec. 21); Gabriela Lena Frank’s Elegia Andina, the Brahms Violin Concerto with 2013 Avery Fisher Career Grant winner Bella Hristova and Elgar’s Enigma Variations (Jan. 17) and a program with dancers from the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center that includes John Adams’ The Chairman Dances, Lee Actor’s Dance Rhapsody and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 12 (May 2). The season finale includes John Cage’s infamous 4:33, Koppel’s Marimba Concerto No. 1 with Chicago Symphony percussionist Cynthia Yeh and the Mahler Fifth Symphony (May 30).

Most concerts are held in the Lincoln-Way North Performing Arts Center in Frankfort but some take place at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.

Chicago Sinfonietta (

Chicago Sinfonietta’s season-opening concert is a crossover affair that will feature “punk marching band” Mucca Pazza in an “orchestra vs. marching band” program that will include works of Britten, Vaughan Williams, Florence Price, an excerpt from the Mahler First Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, among others (Sept 20, 22).

This year’s “Día de Muertos” concert includes de Falla’s El Amour Brujo Suite with shadow puppetry by Redmoon along with Cofré’s Yin-Yin as well as works by contemporary Mexican composers Arturo Rodríguez and Arturo Marquez (Nov. 15, 17). The annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. includes a movement from a new symphony by 15 year-old African American composer Jherrard Marseille Hardeman, the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto with prodigy Sujari Britt as soloist, Copland’s Lincoln Portrait and a selection of gospel music and spirituals with the Waubonsie Valley High School Mosaic Choir (Jan. 18-19).

Other programs include A Galician Voyage: Concerto for Bagpipes, Piano & Orchestra composed by Galician bagpiper Cristina Pato, who will also be the soloist, along with selections from Bizet’s Carmen Suites and Orff’s Carmina burana (March 21, 23); and an American-themed program that will include Ives-Schuman Variations on America, “Veteran’s Lament” from Sons of Nam by James Kimo Williams and the Dvořák (New World) Ninth Symphony (June 6, 8). Music director Mei-Ann Chen conducts most of the concerts, which are held at Symphony Center and at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville.


Lyric Opera of Chicago (

To open its 60th anniversary season, Lyric Opera is mounting a new production of the first opera presented by the company back in 1954, Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Director and Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls has decided to move the action out of the 18th century and into 1920s Spain, before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The cast includes Mariusz Kwiecień as Don Giovanni, Kyle Ketelsen as Leporello, Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira, Mariana Rebeka as Donna Anna, Ryan Center alumna Andriana Chuchman as Zerlina, Antonio Poli as Don Ottavio, Michael Sumuel in his company debut as Masetto and Andrea Silvestrelli as the Commendatore. Sir Andrew Davis conducts (Sept. 27-Oct. 4).

The usual glitter of Lyric’s open night looks to have been transferred to its 60th Anniversary Concert and Diamond Ball where Sir Andrew Davis will lead the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, members of the Ryan Opera Center, and a roster that includes Renée Fleming, jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, Stephanie Blythe, Johan Botha, Christine Goerke, Susan Graham, Quinn Kelsey, Mariusz Kwiecień, Ana María Martínez, Eric Owens, Sondra Radvanovsky, Samuel Ramey, Marina Rebeka and Amber Wagner. Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch, who plays coach Sue Sylvester on the television series Glee, will serve as master of ceremonies (Nov. 1).

The Passenger, the rediscovered 1968 opera by Polish-Jewish composer Mieczylaw Weinberg about the chance encounter of a Holocaust survivor (Amanda Majeski) and a Nazi overseer (Daveda Karanas), will be seen in the David Pountney production that had its 2010 world premiere in Austria. (The 2014 American premiere at Houston Grand Opera was planned by Anthony Freud, Lyric Opera’s current general manager, when he was still general manager in Houston.) Sir Andrew Davis conducts (Feb. 24-March 15).

The two German operas of the season are a revival of the John Cox production of Richard Strauss’ final opera Capriccio, with Renée Fleming as the Countess and Anne Sofie von Otter as Clarion with Davis conducting (Oct. 6-28); and after a 25-plus year absence, a new-to-Chicago Covent Garden production of Wagner’s Tannhäuser with Johan Botha in the title role and Amber Wagner as Elisabeth with Davis conducting the work for the first time (Feb. 9-March 6).

The three Italian operas of the season include a revival of Sir David McVicar production of Verdi’s Il Trovatore with Stephanie Blythe as Azucena, Yonghoon Lee as Manrico, Amber Wagner as Leonora and Quinn Kelsey as Count di Luna with Asher Fisch conducting (Oct. 27-Nov.29); Donizetti’s Anna Bolena — only presented at Lyric once before in 1985 with Joan Sutherland — in a new co-production with Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role with Patrick Summers conducting (Dec. 6-Jan. 16); and a new co-production of Puccini’s Tosca with two casts.  Tatiana Serjan — heard here last fall as Lady Macbeth in the Muti/CSO concert performances of Verdi’s opera will make her Lyric debut along with Hui He in the title role; Misha Didyk and Jorge de Leon alternate as Cavaradossi along with Evgeny Nikitin and Mark Delavan as Scarpia. Making his Lyric debut, Dmitri Jurowski will conduct all performances (Jan. 24-March 14).

There are no French or Baroque operas this season and the sole American work — aside from the company’s post-season non-subscription performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel (April 10-May 3) — is a revival of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with Eric Owens as Porgy and Adina Aaron in her Lyric debut as Bess with Jermaine Smith as Sportin’ Life. Ward Stare conducts (Nov. 17-Dec. 20).

Following up on the success of 2013’s Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, Lyric has commissioned its own “mariachi opera” by the same composer, José “Pepe” Martínez, and will present non-subscription world premiere performances of El Pasado Nunca Se Termina (“The Past Is Never Finished”), set in 1910 on the eve of the Mexican Revolution (March 28-29)

Chicago Opera Theater (

Concluding an eclectic second season as general director of Chicago Opera Theater, Andreas Mitisek will be directing the Chicago premiere of Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth with Nmon Ford in the title role and Suzan Hanson as Lady Macbeth with Francesco Milioto conducting the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Apollo Chorus (Sept. 13-21).

The 2015 season opens with Tobias Picker’s Thérèse Raquin in a co-production with Mitisek’s Long Beach Opera (Feb. 20-28) and continues with Ricky Ian Gordon’s A Coffin in Egypt, which will star Frederica von Stade, for whom the work was written (April 25-May 3). The season concludes in the fall of 2015 with a rare performance of Mozart’s Lucio Silla, written when the composer was 16 (Sept. 26-Oct. 4, 2015).

COT performances are held at Millennium Park’s Harris Theater.

Anne Sofie van Otter will perform a recital of French and German songs with Angela Hewitt January 11 in the University of Chicago Presents series.

Anne Sofie van Otter will perform a recital of French and German songs with Angela Hewitt January 11 in the University of Chicago Presents series.

Harris Theater (

For the first time, Millennium Park’s Harris Theater is presenting opera apart from Chicago Opera Theater performances, a mainstay of the venue since it opened over a decade ago.

A highlight of Harris Theater Presents will be a complete and rare one-night-only concert performance of Rossini’s William Tell presented by Teatro Regio Torino (Turin, Italy) in the company’s North American debut. This is the first time an Italian opera house will tour a complete opera in North America, and Chicago is one of only four stops on the company’s tour. Baritone Fabio Capitanucci will be featured in the title role along with soprano Angela Meade as Matilde and tenor John Osborn as Arnoldo with the Teatro Regio Torino orchestra and chorus conducted by the company’s music director, Gianandrea Noseda (Dec. 3).

In conjunction with Lyric Opera’s Lyric Unlimited, Harris is also inaugurating a new vocal recital series this season called “Beyond the Aria” that will each spotlight two internationally-known opera singers concurrently performing in Lyric Opera productions appearing alongside of a production ensemble member from the Ryan Center. In addition to opera and lieder, artists may also include Broadway repertoire, songs from the American Songbook, jazz, et al, of their own choosing, with accompaniment by pianist Craig Terry. There are four recitals, the debut of the series includes soprano Ana María Martínez (Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni), baritone Bo Skovhus (the Count in Capriccio) and Ryan Center mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges (Oct. 21).

Other performances include mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (Azucena in II Trovatore), baritone Quinn Kelsey (Count di Luna in II Trovatore) and Ryan Center soprano Laura Wilde (Nov. 10); mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton (Jane Seymour in Anna Bolena), tenor Bryan Hymel (Percy in Anna Bolena) and Ryan Center baritone Anthony Clark Evans (Jan. 14). The series finale will feature soprano Amber Wagner (Elisabeth in Tannhäuser), tenor Brandon Jovanovich (Walter in The Passenger) and Ryan Center baritone Will Liverman (March 10).

“Beyond the Aria” will take place on the enclosed stage of Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion where audiences will share the stage with the performers “cabaret style” seated at café tables and choral risers.

Haymarket Opera (

Now in its fourth season, Haymarket Opera would have filled a significant void by default, since neither Lyric Opera nor Chicago Opera Theater have presented any Baroque opera for three straight seasons.

But even if they were, it is hard to imagine matching the impact and vitality with which Haymarket brings us forgotten gems of this glorious period. Performing on original instruments with singers that have early music vocal technique as well as lavishing scholarly attention on costumes, scenery and staging, Haymarket’s engaging and innovative productions are presented in a contemporary club atmosphere at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park.

This fall sees Haymarket presenting another Chicago premiere, Scarlatti’s 1679 comedy Gli equivoci nel sembiante (“Equivocal Appearances”), the work that established Scarlatti internationally. Two principals of last fall’s hysterical production of Telemann’s Pimpinone are returning: Erica Schuller, who played Vespetta, and Sarah Edgar, who directed (Oct. 24-25).


Music of the Baroque (

The blockbuster work of Music of the Baroque’s 2014-5 season will be Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, conducted by Jane Glover (Nov. 30-Dec. 1)/ Glover will also open the season with the Mozart Requiem and Mozart’s Linz Symphony (No. 36) along with Beethoven’s Elegischer Gesang and Haydn’s Te Deum for the Empress Maria Therese (Oct. 19-20).

Other Glover concerts include a concert of soprano arias and duets from Handel operas with Susanna Phillips and Elizabeth Futral (Jan. 25-26); symphonies of Haydn (Drumroll, No. 103) and Mozart (Paris, No. 31) with the Beethoven Second Piano Concerto featuring British pianist Imogen Cooper (March 29-30) and a season finale that includes Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum and Haydn’s Mass in Time of War (May 17-18).

Nicholas Kraemer will lead an instrumental concert of Telemann, Purcell, Bach, Handel and Vivaldi (Feb. 22, 23) and chorus master William Jon Gray will lead a Renaissance choral program that includes Allegri’s Miserere, Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli and Monteverdi’s Madrigals of Love and War at Divine Word Chapel (April 19).

Most performances take place at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie (Sunday nights) and in Millennium Park’s Harris Theatre (Monday nights) although the annual Holiday Brass & Choral Concerts, also conducted by Gray (Dec. 18-21), are still performed at neighborhood churches long associated with Music of the Baroque.

Baroque Band (

After a season of guest conductors, this year’s concerts return to the previous format of being directed from the violin by founder and artistic director Garry Clarke.

The season opening concert “Mad Men” features Spanish countertenor Xavier Sabata in his Chicago debut and includes the mad scene from Handel’s Orlando and the mad scene from Vivaldi’s Orlando furioso (Sept 28-Oct. 2).

Other concerts include “Beastie Boys” with music of Farina, Schmeltzer, Telemann, and Uccellini that aurally portray beasts and wild things (Jan. 16-21) and “Past Masters” with pieces by Matthew Locke, Thomas Baltzar, Lully, and Buxtehude (March 4-7). The season finale “Water Works” pairs Handel’s Water Music with Telemann’s Hamburger Ebb und Flut (May 29-June 3).

Baroque Band is a period instrument ensemble seeking to follow performance practices of the period and gives each of its programs at Symphony Center’s Grainger Ballroom, at Augustana Lutheran Church in Hyde Park and at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston.

Newberry Consort (

Making use of the manuscript holdings of the Newberry Library and also having presented concerts of medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque music there since 1986, the Newberry Consort fills a unique niche in the area early music scene.

“Música Barocca Mexicana” features 18th century music of the New World for voices, violins, guitar, therobo, harpsichord and cello reconstructed as performed at the cathedral in Durango, one of Mexico’s important music centers. Newly-discovered masterpieces are included with many U.S. premieres of works by Ignacio Jerusalem, Santiago Billoni, Manuel de Sumaya and others (Nov. 7-9).

“Music From the World of Copernicus” includes early Polish dances, folk tunes and choral music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods co-directed by Tom Zajac (March 20-22).

“Mr. Dowland’s Midnight” features guest lutenist Paul O’Dette in a program of music for lute, soprano and a consort of viols to display both the dark and lighter sides of John Dowland (April 24-26).

Venues include the Newberry Library’s Ruggles Hall or Church of the Ascension, the University of Chicago’s Logan Center in Hyde Park and Northwestern University’s Lutkin Hall or Alice Millar Chapel in Evanston.


Bella Voce (

Now over thirty years old and originally founded as His Majestie’s Clerkes, Bella Voce opens its season with “Faire Is the Heaven” devoted to Anglican masterpieces by William Walton, John Tavener, James MacMillan, William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Peter Philips and Robert Parsons (Oct. 18-19).

Other performances include a collaboration with the period instrument Callipygian Players for an annual pre-holiday performance of Handel’s Messiah (Nov. 22-23) and an annual holiday program (Dec. 20-21). There will also be a return of the Bella Voce Camerata, a one-per-part ensemble that debuted last season, which will perform a Baroque and a contemporary setting of Stabat Mater by Pergolesi and Arvo Pärt (March 6, 8) and a rare foray into German Romanticism with choral music of Brahms and Josef Rheinberger’s Cantus Missae to close out the season (April 25-26).

Artistic director Andrew Lewis conducts and curates all Bella Voce concerts which are performed at churches in Lincoln Park, Evanston, River Forest and Lisle.

Chicago a cappella (

Founded in 1993 by Jonathan Miller and made up of professional singers, Chicago a cappella is entering into its 21st season by welcoming its new principal music director, John William Trotter.

Opening the season with a “Global Transcendence” concert, Trotter will conduct mystical and sacred works from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, and other traditions. Music of Brahms, Purcell, and Tallis will connect West to East and Indian and African chants that will be presented at four venues, including the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel (Oct. 11-19).

Trotter will also lead “A Cappella en Español,” music and rhythms from the Spanish-speaking cultures including Spain, South America, the Caribbean and a special focus on Mexico. Dancers from the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater will embellish the event  (Feb. 7-15) Paul Nicholson will conduct a holiday program of European and American carols, spirituals, folksongs and Chanukah music (Dec. 5-20) and Paul Langford will direct a program of Beatle songs (April 10-18).

Chicago a cappella performs at venues and churches across the area, including various Chicago locales, Oak Park, Evanston, Naperville and Wheaton.


Symphony Center Presents (

Expanding Riccardo Muti’s season-long CSO exploration of Tchaikovsky and Scriabin, Garrick Ohlsson will perform a Scriabin-based recital that will include Sonata No. 5, White Mass Sonata No. 7 and Désir along with music of Prokofiev and Rachmaninov (Jan. 25) and Olli Mustonen will perform Tchaikovsky’s Album for the Young, Scraibin’s Piano Sonata No. 10 and Vers la flame along with Mustonen’s own Jehkin Iivana (Feb. 22).

In honor of Pierre Boulez’s 90th birthday in March of 2015, pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich will perform all of the major piano works of Boulez in a single concert (March 15).

Working off of the season’s emphasis on French music and May’s three-week “Reveries and Passion” festival, two French pianists will make their debuts: Cédric Tiberghien will perform works by Debussy and Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit (May 3) and Alexandre Tharaud will play works by Couperin, Rameau and Satie, as well as Ravel’s Miroirs (May 10).

The Takács Quartet will traverse Debussy’s String Quartet and collaborate with pianist Marc-André Hamelin to perform Franck’s Piano Quintet (Oct. 16) and Yo-Yo Ma will join CSO musicians for a chamber music concert spotlighting unannounced French repertoire (May 17).

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter appears with her chamber orchestra Mutter Virtuosi to perform Sebastian Currier’s Ringtones, Mendelssohn’s Octet, and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Nov. 19). Violinist Gil Shaham performs Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin with visuals by David Michalek (March 1).

Maurizio Pollini opens the Symphony Center Presents Piano Series with a program of Schumann and Chopin (Oct. 26) and Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s will traverse Book I of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier (Nov. 9). Other pianists appearing on the Sunday afternoon series include András Schiff (March 8), Murray Perahia (March 22), Evgeny Kissin (April 19) and closing out the series, the debut of Orli Shaham combining collections of works from Bach, Schubert, Brahms and Schoenberg along with Bruce Adolph’s My Inner Brahms (May 31).

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will perform music of Anna Thorvaldsottir April 25 at MCA.

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will perform music of Anna Thorvaldsottir April 25 at MCA.

Harris Theater (

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center returns for its fourth year of residency at Millennium Park’s Harris Theater but with an expansion from last year’s three programs to five this season.

Programs include Dvořák, Chausson, and Schubert (Nov. 18); all six Bach Brandenburg Concertos for the holidays in a single program for a second year (Dec. 18); “Drumming,” including pieces by Thierry de Mey, John Cage and Bartók (Feb. 5); piano quartets of Mahler, Schumann and Brahms (March 2) and a collaboration with the Emerson Quartet, presenting a new quartet by Lowell Liebermann along with music of Mozart and Tchaikovsky (May 31).
Other events at Harris Theater include the Chicago recital debut of Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan (Nov. 3), Sphinx Virtuosi (Oct. 22), Orquesta Sinfónica del Estado de México conducted by Enrique Bátiz with soloists Alfonso Moreno and Irina Chistiakova (Feb. 27) and Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet’s Landfall (March 17).

University of Chicago Presents (

The venerable Hyde Park series heads into its 71st season, opening with the Chicago debut of the Danish String Quartet that will feature the U.S. premiere of Thomas Agerfeldt Olesen’s the extinguishable along with Haydn’s String Quartet in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5 and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 in G major, D. 887 (Oct. 10). Russian Pianist Denis Kozhukhin, the First Prize winner of the 2010 Belgian Queen Elisabeth Music Competition, also makes his Chicago debut with a program of Haydn and Prokofiev (Nov. 21).

Other debuts include violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov playing Dvořák, Enescu, Tchaikovsky and the Franck Sonata in A Major (Feb, 6) and mandolinist Avi Avital and pianist David Greilsammer performing Mozart, Bach, Berg, Pärt and Bartók (Feb. 20).

The 100th anniversary of the start of “the Great War” and its influence on composers will be noted in a special festival called “Centenary Weekend: The Crossroads of World War I and Music” that will include six concerts across a single weekend. Clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, violinist Arnaud Sussmann and pianists Anna Polonsky and Orion Weiss open the festival with music of Granados, Elgar, Poulenc, Berg and Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat Suite (April 10). Saturday performances include Clarke and Janáček Sonatas; Debussy’s Violin Sonata, Cello Sonata and Sonata for flute, viola and harp and an evening performance of poetry and songs from Great Britain with baritone Brancy (April 11). Sunday performances include a lecture/demonstration of Bartók’s Second String Quartet with the Pacifica Quartet and a Pacifica & Friends concert repeating the Bartók with music of Prokofiev and Elgar (April 12).  Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter will collaborate with pianist Angela Hewitt in an afternoon of German lieder by Beethoven and Schubert and French chansons of Fauré and Debussy (Jan. 11).

Third Coast Percussion presents a program of music that intersects with politics that will include John Cage’s Credo in US, Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together and David T. Little’s Haunt of Last Nightfall (Nov. 1).  The Early Music Series will include Early Music America’s Baroque performance competition with contestants Consort Laurentia, Elixir Baroque Ensemble, Infusion Baroque, Les Ramoneurs and Trio Speranza (Oct. 11) and “The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres” will spotlight Tafelmusik exploring the fusion of arts, science and culture in the 17thand 18th centuries with narration, choreography and music by Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach and Handel performed to a backdrop of high-definition images from the Hubble telescope (Nov. 7).

Other concerts on the series include the Alba Consort performing songs, dances and improvisations of the ancient Iberian Peninsula and its Middle Eastern and European neighbors (Jan. 30); choral group Blue Heron traversing A Mass for St. Augustine of Canterbury: Anonymous Missa sine nomine at Rockefeller Chapel (April 17) and Benjamin Bagby singing and playing six-string harp to his own medieval reconstruction of Beowulf (May 1).

The Pacifica Quartet, in residence at the University of Chicago, will present the U.S. premiere of Shulamit Ran’s Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory on a program that also includes Mendelssohn’s Quartet in F minor, Op. 80 and Beethoven’s Razumovsky Quartet in e minor, Op. 59, No. 2 (Oct. 12). The Elliott Carter First String Quartet will be the centerpiece of a Pacifica concert that also includes Puccini’s Crisantemi and Beethoven’s Razumovsky Quartet in e minor, Op. 59, No. 1 (Jan. 25).

The Pacifica, eighth blackbird and other guest artists will also be featured in 50th anniversary concerts of Contempo, founded by the late Ralph Shapey as the Contemporary Chamber Players in the fall of 1964. Shapey himself will be remembered with a performance of his Concertante No. 1 for Trumpet and Ten Instruments with trumpeter Stephen Burns on a program conducted by Cliff Colnot that will also include Shulamit Ran’s Perfect Storm, Huck Hodge’s Piano Quintet with pianist Anthony Cheung and two world premieres: the posthumous performance of Lee Hyla’s Wave composed for these concerts before the Northwestern University’s composition chair’s death in June, and former University of Chicago professor John Eaton’s The End of It (Jan. 24).

In addition to the Pacifica, eighth blackbird and friends, soprano Michelle Areyzaga is the vocalist for a Contempo program that includes Helen Grime’s Entwined Channels, Howard Sandroff’s Chants des Femmes, Earl Kim’s Now and Then and another two world premieres: Gunther Schuller’s Four Adventures and Sofia Gubaidulina’s Pilgrimage of Four (March 1).

Other Comtempo concerts include Pacifica and eighth blackbird with mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley with Colnot conducting in a program that includes music of Francisco Castillo-Trigueros, Michael LaCroix, David Gordon, Eric Brinkman and Yuan-Chen Li (April 23) as well as two free concerts of music of University of Chicago doctoral candidates dissertation works (May 6, 15). Concerts take place at Mandel Hall and at the Logan Center.

Avalon Quartet (

The quartet-in-residence at Northern Illinois University — a position occupied by the Vermeer Quartet before it retired in 2007 — the Avalon Quartet also gives regular concerts in Chicago. Following up on its traversal of a Beethoven cycle two years ago and a Bartók cycle last season, this year Avalon will perform a Brahms cycle alongside of music of Schumann, Debussy, Berg and Lachenmann at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fullerton Hall followed by gallery walks that tie together revolutions in music, painting and sculpture. 2 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 28, Nov. 9, Feb. 22, April 12.

Dempster Street Pro Musica (

Three Sunday afternoon concerts at Evanston’s SPACE celebrate a wide variety of chamber music of all styles and from all periods: Bach, Handel, Takemitsu, and others with Cavatina Duo and guests (Oct. 5); “Schubert’s Vienna” with soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg and guests includes The Shepherd on the Rock and select songs with Spohr’s Nonet for woodwinds and strings and Lachner’s Quintet for Woodwinds in E flat major (Feb. 22) and “The British Are Coming!” with Patrice Michaels and Robert Orth and guests performing music of John Dowland, Vaughan Williams, Britten and Walton (May 3).

Orion Ensemble (

Now starting its 22nd season, the Orion Ensemble opens with “Stepping Out,” showcasing Schubert’s Trout Quintet and select Dvořák Slavonic Dances for four hands alongside of music by John Coltrane, Morton Gould and a new work of Jim Gailloreto (Sept. 28-Oct. 5)

“Rhapsody” includes Enescu’s Bohemian Rhapsody with music of Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Iwan Müller’s Quartet and a world premiere Piano Trio by Sebastian Huydts (Nov. 23-Dec. 3) while “Jubilation” includes Stacy Garrop’s piece of that name along with Emil Hartmann’s Serenade and Beethoven’s Archduke Trio (March 8-18). The season finale “Celebration” includes Brahms Piano Quartet in A Major, Op. 26 with music of Marc Mellitts, Rezső Kókai and Paquito D’Rivera (May 24-31).

Performing venues include Chicago, Evanston and Geneva.

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts (

Inspired by Dame Myra Hess’ wartime concerts in Great Britain, the International Music Foundation presents free weekly concerts at 12:15 p.m. Wednesdays under the magnificent Tiffany Dome in Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center.


The Museum of Contemporary Art (

With David Bowie Is running through January and much of MCA’s fall programming across all genres — including music — revolving around that, MCA new music events have been greatly reduced and will mostly take place in the spring this season.

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will present Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s In the Light of Air, played alongside an installation and interactive light constellation which are activated by the performers’ breath and performances (April 25).

As part of MCA’s Creative Summit, Nicole Mitchell sets her sci-fi multimedia concert Mandorla Awakening in the year 2099. Mitchell plays flute and electronics alongside her electro-acoustic chamber orchestra Black Earth Ensemble. Visual artist Ulysses Jenkins collaborates on video and lighting (May 2).

Also part of the Creative Summit, Renée Baker will unveil her first MCA commission Sunyata: Towards Absolute Emptiness which entwines music, voice, and dance and includes Baker’s Chicago Modern Orchestra Project as well as vocalists Dee Alexander, Ann Ward, Saalik Ziyad, and Taalib-din Ziyad, members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, standing on pedestals in luminescent clothing (May 3).

Ensemble Dal Niente (

Ensemble Dal Niente will present “Dal Niente: Party 2014” at Jackson Junge Gallery which is planned as an annual communal, experimental series designed to remove concert-hall conventions and will include music by Ted Hearne, Johannes Kriedler, Beat Furrer, David Lang, Franco Donatoni, Chris Fisher-Lochhead, Ashley Fure, George Lewis, Natacha Diels, Alex Mincek, Augusta Read Thomas, Alex Lunsqui, Thomas Ades, Edgar Guzman, John Adams  (Nov. 15).

The group will also continue its solo series Dal Niente Presents at Constellation with a concert of harp music by Ben Melsky which will include works by Salvatore Sciarrino, Elliott Carter  and Kaija Saariaho along with world premieres by Eliza Brown and Tomas Gueglio (Nov. 30) as well as an album release performance of Diligence Is to Magic As Progress Is to Flight by violinist J. Austin Wulliman and composer Katherine Young (Dec. 14).

Access Contemporary Music (

ACM presents a variety of concerts including the annual “Open House Chicago” that opens the season where site-specific compositions are given at the places the music was composed for every fifteen minutes between Noon-3 p.m. (Oct. 11).

This year’s “Composer Alive” will include three open rehearsals and recording sessions of ACM performing a new work from Poland in installments (Jan. 23, Feb. 13 & March 20) and the piece performed together along with other contemporary Polish music (April 18). This year’s annual Sound of Silent Film Festival takes place at the Music Box Theater (May 3).

Fifth House Ensemble (

The contemporary quartet’s season opens with “Black Violet Act II: The Great Exodus of the Tamed” includes music of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, John Harbison, Ernest Bloch and Caleb Burhans at Constellation (Oct. 5) and at Mayne Stage (Oct. 7). “Broken Text” includes pieces by Marc Mellits, John Adams, Edgar Meyer and David Anderson at Dixon Stein (Dec. 14) and at the Raven Theatre (May 19-20).

Fulcrum Point New Music Project (

Fulcrum Point New Music Project season opens with its 16th annual Concert for Peace with music of Somei Satoh, Jacob TV, Louis Andriessen, Thelonius Monk, Horace Silver and Fela Kuti at the South Shore Cultural Center (Sept. 21).

A classical Indian music and dance program includes “Mara,” an enlightenment tale by Kalapriya Dance that depicts the life of the Buddha. Kalyan Pathak and 25 Fulcrum Point musicians merge Messaien, Mingus and Param Vir to premiere “Raga Fields,” featuring British-Bengali sarod virtuoso Soumik Datta at Millennium Park’s Harris Theater (Nov. 1).

MusicNOW (

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Monday night Harris Theater new music series will be curated and hosted by CSO co-composers-in-residence Mason Bates and Anna Clyde for a fifth and final time this season.

The series opens with a concert of works by Chicago composer Anthony Cheung, Michael Gordon, John Luther Adams and Mason Bates and will be conducted by James Feddeck, winner of the 2013 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award (Sept. 29) and Radiohead guitarist Johnny Greenwood’s suite from his film score to There Will Be Blood will be heard along with pieces by Anna Clyne, Dan Trueman and Salvatore Sciarrino. DJ Justin Reed and lighting designer Todd Clark will also present the multimedia Hommage à Scriabin (Jan. 19).

Saluting Pierre Boulez’s 90th birthday, Dérive 2 will be performed along with Mason Bates’ Indigo Workshop for solo piano, and the world premiere of Anna Clyne’s Postponeless Creature, a CSO commission for MusicNOW and the latest in a series of Clyne works inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson (March 23).

The season finale will showcase Chicago pianist-composer Myra Melford performing her own works. Also heard will be music of John Zorn, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Chicago composer Marc Mellits. The Chicago film production group Cinema Libertad will create visual elements especially for this program (June 1).

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