Critic’s Choice

Wed Sep 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Riccardo Muti leads off his second season as CSO music director with Verdi, Ibert and Tchaikovsky.

The music season begins in earnest this week with the Chicago Symphony Orchestrakicking off its season as well as a dizzying array of competing events.

Back from what was by all accounts a highly successful European tour, Riccardo Muti will launch his second season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, not at Orchestra Hall, but with a free concert 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Apostolic Church of God on the South Side, part of the music director’s outreach beyond the CSO’s traditional audiences. The program is designed to please with Verdi’s Overture to Giovanna d’Arco, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and the Ibert Flute Concerto with Mathieu Dufour as soloist. The program will be repeated at Symphony Center Friday afternoon and Tuesday night with a suite from Nino Rota’s film score for The Leopard replacing the Verdi. On Saturday night the CSO’s gala ball will take place with Yefim Bronfman performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2, along with Muti leading the CSO in the aforementioned Verdi overture and the Four Seasons from Verdi’s I vespri siciliani.

Alan Heatherington and the Ars Viva Orchestra launch their season with an offbeat program of excerpts from Copland’s Rodeo, Hershey Felder as soloist in the Chicago premiere of his Piano Concerto, Aliyah, and the U.S. premiere of Stanley Black’s Music of a People, featuring orchestrations of favorite Jewish melodies. Concert time is 3 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Monday at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts.

The Chicago Chamber Musicians kick off their 25th anniversary season with a brass program joined by the American Brass Quintet 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Pick-Staiger Hall in Evanston and 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Harris Theater. The Orion Ensemble opens its season with a diverting semi-Spanish program 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston. Chicago a cappella leads off with “Days of Awe and Rejoicing,” a wide-ranging program of Jewish sacred music 4 p.m. Sunday at K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation in Hyde Park. And Mei-Ann Chen begins her reign as music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta with a program of Beethoven, John Williams and William Grant Still featuring harpist Ann Hobson Pilot as soloist 7:30 p.m. Monday at Symphony Center.

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