Amid changes, UC Presents sticks with classical emphasis in 2018-19 season

Tue Feb 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

The Takacs Quartet will open the University of Chicago Presents 2018-19 season on October 12.

The Takács Quartet will open University of Chicago Presents’ 2018-19 season on October 12.

There was substantial sotto voce buzz last week when it was announced that the University of Chicago’s new Don Michael Randel ensemble in residence would be Sweet Honey in the Rock. The vocal pop group is many things–the release touts their “vibrant, versatile and relevant performances expressed through song, dance and sign language.” But classical music isn’t one of them.

That appointment formalizes a total turn away from classical music for the Randel resident ensemble. The position was previously held by the celebrated Pacifica Quartet, longtime UC ensemble in residence for two decades, before they were sacked in favor of the crossover Imani Winds last year.

The fact that the UC ensemble in residence is no longer a classical group makes many observers concerned that the University of Chicago Presents series–with its forays into jazz and, starting next season, world music–may well follow suit and start diluting its traditional classical emphasis for more populist, politically trendy genres.

Fortunately, that hasn’t happened–at least not yet. And while University of Chicago Presents’ 2018-19 series is not the most exciting or adventurous lineup ever fielded in Hyde Park–there are no vocal recitals or large ensembles–UCP will still be centered on core classical repertoire in its 75th anniversary season.

The most newsworthy element is a big change on the contemporary music front. The long-running Contempo series is going away, to be replaced by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition. UC faculty member Augusta Read Thomas will be the CCCC director, assisted by UC curatorial staff.

Fourteen world premieres are slated for the inaugural CCCC season. Yarn/Wire will perform music of Misato Mochizuki, Enno Poppe, Will Myers and Clay Metten October 13. The remaining three programs will be performed by the new Grossman Ensemble (named after CCCC donors Sandy and Naava Grossman) December 7, March 15 and June 7.

The UCP Classic Concert series will open October 12 with the return of the Takács Quartet in a program of Haydn, Shostakovich and Brahms. Chopin Competition winner Seong-Jin Cho will make his Chicago debut October 26 (playing Bach, Schubert Chopin and Mussorgsky). Clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein will be in the spotlight in a November 16 program with the main work Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps.

The young Trio Celeste performs Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Jalbert on January 11, 2019, followed by the Parker Quartet and friends on February 1 (Strauss, Janáček and Brahms). The Pacifica Quartet returns April 12 (Beethoven, Mendelssohn and a world premiere by David Dzubay). The season closes with the CSO Winds on April 28 (Strauss and Dvořák).

Capella Pratensis returns November 11 to open the Howard Mayer Brown International Early Music Series. The Tallis Scholars will present a Renaissance Christmas program at Rockefeller Chapel on December 9.

Stretching the early-music rubric a bit far, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Robert Levin will perform Beethoven’s complete cello sonatas February 21 and 22. The British Consort Atalante offers a tribute to Rome on April 7. And the Brown series will close with violinist Rachel Barton Pine and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour performing music of Bach April 26.

The new “Music Without Borders” series will offer three world-music events.  The series opens with vocalist TM Krishna October 14. The four-member group Black String performs on traditional Korean instrument January 13. And Iraqui oud player Rahim AlHaj concludes the series May 5.

Sweet Honey in the Rock will perform February 8. And the UC jazz series was also announced today.

Subscriptions for all five series go on sale  March 6 at First time subscribers may order online at

Patrons can also call 773-702-2787 or visit the UChicago Arts box office at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th Street.

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One Response to “Amid changes, UC Presents sticks with classical emphasis in 2018-19 season”

  1. Posted Feb 28, 2018 at 11:42 am by Jasmine

    When can I purchase single ticket?

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