Muti and much more on tap for an exciting Chicago music season

Tue Sep 07, 2010 at 1:24 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Riccardo Muti conducts the CSO in Bruckner Thursday night. Photo: Todd Rosenberg
Riccardo Muti will launch his Chicago Symphony Orchestra tenure September 23 with music of Berlioz. Photo: Todd Rosenberg.

For those Chicago music fans who have been on Neptune, Riccardo Muti begins his much-anticipated–to put it mildly–reign as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this month. The charismatic Italian maestro’s opening season with the CSO is likely to be the most exciting event to hit the local music scene in several years. Muti will open his Chicago tenure with a free CSO concert at Millennium Park on Sept 19 and kick off the CSO season proper Sept. 23 with a double helping of Berlioz, featuring Gerard Depardieu as narrator.

Other highlights of Muti’s inaugural ten-week season include Anne-Sophie Mutter’s CSO return after far too long an absence (Oct. 2); the world premiere of Bernard Rands’ Danza Petrificada (Oct. 14 on a program with Cherubini’s Requiem); Yo-Yo Ma, CSO’s creative advisor, joining the orchestra and Muti May 12-13; and a concert performance of Verdi’s Otello in April, which the same forces will take to Carnegie Hall.

There are plenty of compelling CSO evenings on tap with guest conductors as well. Three CSO co-commissions will be heard including Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto Feb. 24, performed by Leila Josefowicz under the composer’s baton. Texan Tenebrae by Mark-Anthony Turnage will be premiered by Sir Andrew Davis Nov. 18-23. And a new piece by Osvaldo Golijov is scheduled for April 21-23, on concerts conducted by James Conlon.

Also, the CSO’s out-going leadership team will be back. Mark your calendar for Pierre Boulez’s take on Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass in December and Bernard Haitink’s season-closing performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in June.

Also do not miss the CSO’s opening MusicNOW program October 4, which will mark the official debut of new composers-in-residence Anna Clyne and Mason Bates.

And through Symphony Center Presents, there will be plenty of first-class musical visitors this season, including Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra with Denis Matsuev (Oct. 12); the Cleveland Orchestra (Feb 2); and a pack of pianists including Murray Perahia (Nov. 7), Pierre-Laurent Aimard (Dec. 5) and Paul Lewis (May 22).

Photo: Terrence McCarthy/San Francisco Opera.
Thomas Hampson as Macbeth. Photo: Terrence McCarthy/San Francisco Opera.

Not that there’s a lack of important events elsewhere in the city.

While the Lyric Opera is engaged in a search for a new general director (Bill Mason has announced his retirement in 2012), the company will open an intriguing interim season with Verdi’s Macbeth starring Thomas Hampson;  Barbara Gaines of Chicago Shakespeare Theater will make her opera directing debut. Carmen, Girl of the Golden West and The Mikado are the populist draws on North Wacker Drive this season, but the most promising productions may be the first Lyric staging of Wagner’s Lohengrin in 31 years, and the season-closing run of Handel’s Hercules, the only opera this season new to the Lyric repertoire.

At a time when most classical organizations are in alarmed retrenchment, Music of the Baroque is marking its 40th anniversary season by expanding to eight programs. Jane Glover will open the season with an all-Purcell evening, spotlighting his evergreen opera Dido and Aeneas (Sept. 26-27). other MOB highlights include Bach’s complete Christmas Oratorio (Dec 5 and 7), Handel’s Messiah (April 15 and 17) and the final three Mozart symphonies (May 22 and 23).

The Pacifica Quartet will perform the complete Shostakovich string quartets at Ganz Hall, starting October 17.

This season’s Soviet Arts Experience Festival is partly a tying together of previously scheduled events, yet the most crucial element is the Pacifica Quartet’s complete cycle of the Shostakovich string quartets. With the technical gleam and interpretive insight of these gifted musicians, these chronological programs (starting October 17 and running through Feb. 27) at Roosevelt University’s Ganz Hall promise to be one of the highlights of the 2010-2011 season.

The University of Chicago Presents offers a typically wide-ranging selection of first-class guest artists at Mandel Hall including the Emerson String Quartet (Jan. 7) and the Chicago recital debuts of American mezzo-soprano Joyce Di Donato (Feb. 18) and French pianist Lise de la Salle (April 10).

Alan Heatherington and Ars Viva, Chicago’s leading chamber orchestra, serves up another discerning and finely balanced season. Mark down the opening concert Oct. 24 featuring Barber’s still underrated Symphony No. 1 and the Finnish-Hungarian Feb. 20 program with Lori Kaufman as soloist in Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Chicago’s new-music groups are offering their usual array of smart, envelope-pushing programs. ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) kicks things off this Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art with a fascinating lineup including the Chicago premiere of John Adams’ Son of Chamber Symphony, along with Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1 and works of Boulez and Dai Fujikura.

Be sure to reserve a ticket for Accessible Contemporary Music’s Sept. 18 season opener. Equal parts new-music concert and architectural tour, ACM’s moveable feast will offer six, count ‘em, six, world premieres in one afternoon performed at a series of architecturally significant downtown buildings including Aqua, the Monadnock Building, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Marquette Building.

Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 2, The American Four Seasons, will have its Chicago premiere at the Harris Theater by Robert McDuffie Oct. 24. The Chicago Chamber Musicians will serve up their brand of exacting, highly polished performances. The Orion Ensemble offers a compelling mix of repertoire, and there’s also Chicago Opera Theater, the Chicago Sinfonietta, Fulcrum Point, Baroque Band, the Rembrandt Chamber Players, Chicago Chamber Choir, Bella Voce and more.

Mark Chicago Classical Review as a favorite and be sure to check the website daily for comprehensive coverage as well as updated listings of events.

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