Verdi and Britten celebrations highlight a feast of music in Chicago

Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 6:53 am

By Dennis Polkow

Riccardo Muti will lead Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances of Verdi's "Macbeth" and Requiem to mark the bicentennial of the composer's birth. Photo: Todd Rosenberg
Riccardo Muti will lead Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances of Verdi’s “Macbeth” and Requiem to mark the bicentennial of the composer’s birth. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the two major composers celebrating bicentennials this year, Verdi is the clear favorite among local presenters. Both Lyric Opera and Chicago Opera Theater are opening their seasons with the Italian composer’s works, Lyric serving up two Verdi operas in 2013-14.

Given that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has long been considered to be one of the finest Wagnerian orchestras in the world, one might expect the CSO to be trumping up Wagner for his bicentennial. Not when your music director is Riccardo Muti, a conductor widely regarded as the greatest living Verdi interpreter. Instead, there will be CSO concert performances of Verdi and a shrewdly positioned plan to make the CSO the epicenter of the music world on the composer’s actual 200th birthday by streaming a live performance of the Verdi Requiem (the same work that won Muti and the CSO two Grammys).

Surprisingly, the Britten centennial is getting zero recognition from either Lyric Opera or Chicago Opera Theater. The former is particularly odd given that Lyric Opera music director Sir Andrew Davis is one of Britten’s most stalwart ambassadors.

Nonetheless, Britten is being celebrated by many other area institutions, including a significant nod from the CSO with performances of the War Requiem, to be conducted by Charles Dutoit. Most notably, there are two full-blown area Britten festivals, the most extensive being given by the University of Chicago Presents, the other by Chicago Chamber Musicians.

Here is a sampling of the 2013-14 classical music season in Chicago:


Chicago Symphony Orchestra (

Music director Riccardo Muti continues his commitment to Chicago’s neighborhoods by opening the season with a free community concert featuring music of Brahms and Verdi at Morton East High School in Cicero (Sept. 18).

Given Muti’s unparalleled Verdi proclivities and with 2013 being the composer’s bicentennial, Verdi dominates Muti’s fall CSO residency: the Symphony Gala is an all-Verdi affair (Sept. 21) and Muti will also lead a concert version of Verdi’s Macbeth (Sept. 28-Oct. 6). A performance of Verdi’s Requiem will be streamed live internationally on Verdi’s 200th birthday (Oct. 10).

Music of Schubert will be spotlighted across Muti’s winter, spring and summer residencies including performances of the Mass No. 5 (Feb. 6-8). A rare Muti foray into the music of Mahler—the Symphony No. 1—will close out the season (June 19-21).

Across a largely conservative CSO season, it is worth noting that Muti will lead the world premiere of the CSO-commissioned Double Cello Concerto by Italian composer Giovanni Sollima with Yo-Yo Ma and the composer as soloists (Jan. 30-Feb. 1). Muti will also conduct the Chicago premiere of Italian film composer Ennio Morricone’s Voices from the Silence (Feb. 6-8), written to commemorate the events of 9/11. Muti led the world premiere of the piece at the Ravenna Festival.

Charles Dutoit will conduct the world premiere of the CSO-commissioned Flute Concerto by French composer Guillaume Connesson, with CSO principal Mathieu Dufour as soloist (March 5-8). Dutoit will also lead Britten’s War Requiem to commemorate the Britten centennial (Nov. 14-16).

Local pianist extraordinaire Jorge Federico Osorio will play the Chávez Piano Concerto with Miguel Harth-Bedoya in a program that will also include Dvořák’s Husitská Overture and the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition (Dec. 12-17).

Having cancelled his CSO appearances for the last two seasons due to illness, conductor emeritus Pierre Boulez is nonetheless slated to conduct works of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky (Feb. 20-March 1): here’s hoping. Former principal conductor Bernard Haitink will conduct the Bruckner Fourth Symphony and the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 with Emanuel Ax as soloist (Oct. 31-Nov. 3).

As curator of the CSO’s “Truth to Power” festival, Jaap van Zweden will spotlight music of Britten, Prokofiev and Shostakovich across three weeks of spring programs (May 22-June 8).

Conductors recently absent from the CSO’s downtown roster will be making returns this season include Michael Tilson Thomas leading the Mahler Ninth Symphony with Stravinsky’s Elegy for JFK performed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the president’s assassination (Nov. 21-24). Leonard Slatkin will direct an all-American program that includes William Schuman’s Symphony No. 6 and co-composer-in-residence Mason Bates’ Violin Concerto with soloist Anne Akiko Meyers (April 17-22).

Christoph Eschenbach will conduct Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony in a program that opens with …where the murmurs die… by composer Bernard Rands in anticipation of the composer’s 80th birthday in March 2014 (December 19-21). John Williams will conduct an all-Williams program that includes his Violin Concerto with soloist Gil Shaham and music from his film scores, including last year’s Lincoln, which he recorded with the CSO (Nov. 8-9).

Other guest conductors returning to the CSO during the 2013-14 season include Semyon Bychov (Oct. 24-26), Stéphane Denève (Dec. 5-10), Christoph von Dohnányi (May 1-3), Sir Mark Elder (April 24-27), Vladimir Jurowski (May 14-17), Bernard Labadie (May 8-10), Susanna Mälkki (Oct. 17-22), Nicholas McGegan ( Feb. 13-18), Esa-Pekka Salonen (April 3-8 and April 10-13), and Mitsuko Uchida (as conductor and pianist, March 13-18, and as soloist with Muti, March 20-22).

Symphony Center Presents (

Valery Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky Theater Symphony Orchestra in three Stravinsky ballets October 2. Photo: Alberto Venzago

Valery Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky Theater Symphony Orchestra in an all-Stravinsky program that includes The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring for its centennial (Oct. 2). Marking his 25th season as artistic director and principal conductor, Yuri Temirkanov leads the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in music of Prokofiev and Rachmaninov. Zubin Mehta conducts the Israel Philharmonic in the Bruckner Eighth Symphony (March 17).

Ars Viva Orchestra (

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

Ars Viva opens its 19th season with Brahms’ Tragic Overture, Bartók’s Hungarian Sketches and the Bruckner Sixth Symphony (Sept. 29).Other programs include What the Flowers Tell Me (Britten’s orchestral reduction of the second movement of the Mahler Third Symphony), Bartók’s Violin Concerto with soloist Ilya Kaler and the Dvořák Eighth Symphony (Oct. 27); Vaughan Williams, Tchaikovsky and Schredrin’s Carmen Fantasy after Bizet (Feb. 9); Vaughan Williams, Beethoven and Prokofiev (March 16) and Suk, a TBA concerto with the winner of the Music Institute’s Concerto Competition and Schoenberg’s arrangement of Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor (May 4).

Chicago Philharmonic (

The Chicago Philharmonic ushers in a new era as its new artistic director Scott Speck, also music director of the Joffrey Ballet, begins his tenure. The orchestra also is expanding its concert programs to five Sundays per season in addition to its regular performances with the Joffrey.

The season opener includes Richard Strauss’s Don Juan, a rare performance of Tchaikovsky’s one-movement Third Piano Concerto with soloist Kuang Hao Huang, and a centennial performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (Sept. 29).

Speck will also conduct Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll for the Wagner bicentennial, Mahler’s Rückert Lieder with mezzo-soprano Susan Platts, and two musical settings of Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, by Jean-Baptiste Lully and Richard Strauss (Feb. 16). Speck will close out the season leading Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with soloist Benjamin Beilman, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (May 11).

Guest conductors include Joel Smirnoff leading music of Berlioz, Brahms and Richard Strauss (Nov. 10) and Leif Bjaland conducting music of Vaughan Williams, Saint-Saëns and the Dvořák Seventh Symphony (April 13).

Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra (

After a triumphant inaugural season, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra music director David Danzmayr returns for a second season filled with innovative programming. The young Austrian conductor will lead all IPO concerts and is taking the 36-year old south suburban orchestra to new heights.

The season opens with the Chicago premiere of Michael Daugherty’s piano concerto Deus Ex Machina with soloist Terrence Wilson and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (Oct. 19). French violinist Alexandra Soumm will be the soloist for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in a program that also includes William Bolcom’s Commedia for an (almost) 18th Century Orchestra and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No. 6 (Nov. 16).

Other programs include music of Copland, Golijov and the Tchaikovsky Pathétique Symphony No. 6 (Feb. 15-16), Bernstein, Prokofiev and the Glazunov Violin Concerto with Menuhin International Violin Competition winner Anna Lee making her Chicago debut (May 16-17)

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. The orchestra will also make its Chicago debut this season at Millennium Park’s Harris Theater with the Avalon Quartet in a program that will include the Chicago premiere of Gunther Schuller’s Concerto for String Quartet and the United States premiere of Zemlinsky’s First Symphony (April 26).

Chicago Sinfonietta (

Chicago Sinfonietta’s season opening concert is a crossover affair that will have hip-hop group FootworKINGz and members of Kyynba Lynx dancing to an “orchestral dance mix” of selections from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite, Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance from Gayne, Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and two movements of Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1, a 1933 piece commissioned by Frederick Stock for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Sept. 14-15).

This year’s “Día de Muertos” concert includes selections from Golijov’s Ainadamar, a movement from Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, selections from Mozart’s Requiem, Lena Frank’s Three Latin American Dances for Orchestra and de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat, Suite No. 2 (Nov. 9-11).

The annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. includes the North American premiere of JacobTV’s multimedia work Mountaintop along with Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino, Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1 with soloist Nicole Cash and spirituals with soprano Elizabeth Norman and the Apostolic Church of God Sanctuary Choir (Jan. 19-20).

Civic Orchestra (

The training orchestra of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Civic Orchestra celebrates its 95th birthday all season and in a special anniversary concert (March 29).

Principal conductor Cliff Colnot opens the season with an all-Shostakovich program (Oct. 7) and also leads music of Copland, Stravinsky and Messiaen (Jan. 21).

Other conductors working with the orchestra include Rei Hotoda (Nov. 17), Nicolas McGegan (Feb. 17), Riccardo Muti leading an open rehearsal (March 23), Carlos Miguel Prieto with soloist Yo-Yo Ma (April 7), Michael Christie conducting an opera evening with artists from Lyric Opera’s Ryan Center (May 19) and Jaap van Zweden (June 4).

The orchestra will also present its sixth annual concert at the South Shore Cultural Center (March 16) and a series of citywide neighborhood park performances with Civic players performing chamber music.


Ana Maria Martinez will appear in Lyric Opera productions of "Otello" and "Rusalka"in 2013-14. Photo: Tom Specht
Ana Maria Martinez will appear in Lyric Opera productions of “Otello” and “Rusalka”in 2013-14. Photo: Tom Specht

Lyric Opera of Chicago (

The Lyric Opera is offering a remarkably conservative season, even by recent unadventurous company standards. There will be nothing French, nothing contemporary, no Britten, no Handel, no Richard Strauss and nothing American, unless you want to count the company’s post-season multi-year exploration of Rodgers and Hammerstein blockbusters which will continue with The Sound of Music during the spring of 2014.

Of the eight operas, one is actually an operetta, Die Fledermaus (a San Francisco Opera production, Dec. 10-Jan. 18), and half of the season will be devoted to Italian warhorses: Madama Butterfly (in a new co-production with two casts, Oct. 15-30 and Jan. 11-26), The Barber of Seville (new production, Feb. 1-28), La Traviata (new co-production, Nov. 20-Dec. 20) and Otello (Sir Peter Hall revival, Oct. 5-Nov. 2)

The two Verdi works are for the Verdi bicentennial, although Wagner, whose influence was so gargantuan that he even influenced Verdi, gets a singular nod for his bicentennial, Parsifal in a new production (Nov. 9-29).

The one company premiere will be a new production of Dvořák’s Rusalka with Ana Maria Martinez in the title role (Feb. 2-March 16). Martinez will also sing her first Desdemona in the season-opening revival of Verdi’s Otello with Johan Botha in the title role; the opening night gala performance is 5 p.m. Sat. Oct. 5.

Other major role debuts include Paul Groves in the title role of Parsifal (with Thomas Hampson as Amfortas), and Matthew Polenzani as the title character  of Mozart’s La Clemenzo di Tito with Joyce DiDonato as Sesto in a new-to-Chicago Sir David McVicar production (March 5-23).

Music director Sir Andrew Davis, who has renewed his Lyric contract through 2020-21, is only conducting three of this season’s eight operas: Parsifal, Rusalka and Clemenza. There is also a Renée Fleming and Jonas Kauffman recital (March 14). Michael Black, who was the interim Lyric Opera chorus master during the 2011-12 season, assumes his duties as new chorus master this season.

Chicago Opera Theater (

With Andreas Mitisek having completed two-thirds of his first season as general director of Chicago Opera Theater with contemporary works, the final piece of his inaugural season is the only opera that former general director Brian Dickie had originally planned: a rare COT foray into Verdi for his bicentennial, the early Giovanna d’Arco (Joan of Arc). David Schweizer will direct the contemporary production and Francesco Milioto will conduct the New Millennium Orchestra in its first-ever COT collaboration. Soprano Suzan Hanson, who sang the role of Madeleine in last winter’s COT production of Philip Glass’s The Fall of the House of Usher, will sing the title role (Sept. 21-29).

The 2014 season has COT collaborating with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble for the Chicago premiere of Duke Ellington’s Big Band street opera, Queenie Pie (Feb. 15-March 5), while a double bill of satires from 1943 Germany pairs Viktor Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis with Carl Orff’s The Clever One (May 31-June 8). The season concludes in the fall of 2014 with the Chicago premiere of Ernest Bloch’s operatic setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Sept. 13-21, 2014).

Haymarket Opera (

Given that Lyric Opera and Chicago Opera Theater are both ignoring Baroque opera two seasons in a row, Chicago’s Haymarket Opera seems to be carving out a special niche for itself almost by default.

Now in its third season, Haymarket Opera will present a fully-staged period-instrument performance and Chicago premiere of Telemann’s comic mini-opera Pimpinone with a contemporary club atmosphere at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park (Oct. 26-27 ).

Chicago Folks Operetta (

With Light Opera Works increasingly turning to musicals as its core repertoire, Chicago Folks Operetta has successfully begun filling in the niche of performing fully staged operettas with an orchestra. Following up on its superb summer presentation of Lehár’s The Land of Smiles, Chicago Folks Operetta presents a holiday production of Victor Herbert’s Babes in Toyland at the 19th Century Club in Oak Park (Dec. 7-8).


Jane Glover will direct Music of the Baroque in works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert this season.
Jane Glover will direct Music of the Baroque in works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert this season.

Music of the Baroque (

The blockbuster work of Music of the Baroque’s 2013-4 season will be Haydn’s The Creation, conducted by Jane Glover (March 30-31).

Glover will also conduct Mozart’s Coronation Mass with works of Handel and Haydn (Jan. 26-7) and a concert of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert (Nov. 17-18).

Nicholas Kraemer will open the season with an all-Bach choral program that includes the Magnificat and two cantatas (Oct. 6-7), an Italian-themed program spotlighting Handel and Bach (March 2-3) and will close out the season with a program spotlighting Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks that will also include music of Purcell, Vivaldi, Rameau and C.P.E. Bach (May 18-19).

Baroque Band (

Baroque Band has been led by guest conductors when it has performed Baroque operas for Chicago Opera Theater, a tradition which looks to have ended with the passing of the Brian Dickie era. The period-instrument ensemble has also been led by celebrity early music conductors for special vocal programs. Still, most of its subscription programs have been instrumental programs directed from the violin by founder and artistic director Garry Clarke.

This year’s programs will follow that same era performance practice, but each will have a different director. Simon Standage will open the season directing a program from the violin devoted to the concerto that includes music of Torelli, Albinoni, Leclair and Bach and includes the Autumn and Winter sections of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Sept. 18-21).

Ian Watson will direct a program from the harpsichord that explores national influences on music of Locatelli, Avison, Durante, Geminiani, Vivaldi and Torelli (Jan. 15-18), a season-long theme. Longtime local favorite David Schrader will direct music of Bach, C.P.E. Bach and Telemann from the harpsichord (March 19-22). Joan Plena will close out the season by directing music of — and influenced by — Vivaldi, from the violin (June 6-11).

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.

American cornetto pioneer and virtuoso Bruce Dickey joins the Newberry Consort for its season-opening “Playing with Fire,” which will spotlight music from the late Italian Renaissance and early Baroque periods (Oct. 18-20). The Consort’s winter program “The Feast of the Pheasant” recreates the program heard at a festive February 1454 banquet thrown by the Duke of Burgundy and includes music by Guillaume Dufay, Gilles Binchois and others. (Feb. 7-9).

“Celestial Sirens” spotlights music by Mexican and Spanish composers for convent use in the New World and will be sung by soprano Ellen Hargis with a women’s ensemble of voices accompanied by guitar, bassoon and organ (May 2-4).


The Pacifica Quartet performs music of Britten. Mozart and Brahms for the University of Chicago Presents series.
The Pacifica Quartet performs music of Britten. Mozart and Brahms for the University of Chicago Presents series.

Symphony Center Presents (

Expanding Riccardo Muti’s season-long CSO exploration of Schubert, Symphony Center Presents includes three Schubert vocal recitals: the song cycles Winterreise (sung by baritone Christian Gerhaher with pianist Gerold Huber, Dec. 4) and Die schöne Müllerin (performed by baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Christoph Eschenbach, Jan. 19) as well as a lieder recital that includes Der Hirt auf dem Felsen and Auf dem Strom (with soprano Susanna Phillips and bass-baritone Eric Owens, May 11).

Emanuel Ax is curating a festival called “Brahms: Composer and Muse” that includes juxtaposing works of Brahms with premieres of newly commissioned works that reflect his influence. Ax will give a Brahms recital along with premieres by Brett Dean and Missy Mazzoli (May 18) and will join cellist Yo-Yo Ma to perform the Brahms cello sonatas along with a new cello and piano work by Anders Hillborg (Feb. 21). Ax will also accompany mezzo-soprano Ann Sophie von Otter in a Brahms lieder and piano recital that will also include a new work for mezzo-soprano and piano by Nico Muhly.

Other recitals include violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt (Nov. 17), violinist Joshua Bell (Feb. 12) and Pinchas Zukerman performing works for violin and viola with pianist Yefim Bronfman (April 2).

Bach dominates the fall concerts of the Symphony Center Presents Piano Series with Jeremy Denk performing the Goldberg Variations on the series opener (Oct. 13) and Andras Schiff traversing all six Partitas (Oct. 27). Leif Ove Andsnes will play an all-Beethoven program (March 16) and Mitsuko Uchida will traverse Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations (March 9).

22-year old Daniel Trifonov, 2011 first-prize winner of both the Tchaikovsky and Rubenstein piano competitions, makes his series debut in an adventurous program that includes music of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Ravel and Schumann.

Evgeny Kissin will perform music of Schubert and Scriabin (March 2), Nicolai Lugansky will play Franck, Prokofiev and Ravmaninov (May 4) and Vladimir Feltsman takes on Haydn, Schubert and Prokofiev (June 1).

The series will also offer a rare double-piano recital with Katia and Marielle Labèque performing Philip Glass’ Four Movements for Two Pianos and arrangements of Gershwin’s Three Preludes for two pianos as well as an arrangement of Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite for two pianos and percussion (April 6).

University of Chicago Presents (

The most extensive area celebration of the Britten centennial happens in Hyde Park with various concerts, special events and symposia exploring different aspects of the 20th century British composer during the University of Chicago Presents 70th anniversary season.

The complete Britten string quartets will be presented across two concerts by the Jupiter String Quartet (Oct. 4) and the Pacifica Quartet (Oct. 6). French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras makes his Chicago recital debut performing Britten, Bach and Kodaly (Oct. 15).

Tenor Nicholas Phan will sing Schubert as well as Britten’s Folksongs, Canticle III “Still Falls the Rain,” and Canticle 5 “Death of Saint Narcissus” (Oct. 18). Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and Fretwork will present works of John Dowland that influenced Britten on the Early Music Series (Nov. 8) and the Spektral Quartet will perform Britten chamber music juxtaposed with Bartók, Thomas Adès and Ferneyhough (Nov. 10).

Also on the Early Music Series, the Venice Baroque Orchestra with conductor Andrea Marcon and countertenor Philippe Jaroussky will perform works by Porpora, Veracini, Geminiani and Vivaldi (Feb. 28) and Anonymous 4 will traverse a program of 13th century Marian motets (April 4).

Other Pacifica Quartet concerts include Mozart, Shostakovich and Brahms (Jan. 12) and the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets with Anthony McGill (April 13). The Pacifica will also collaborate with Contempo and the Patricia Barber Quartet for all-women composer concert (April 26) as will eighth blackbird and the Anubis Quartet for an evening of premieres (Feb. 4). A recital of new music for violin and piano with violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Ning Yu rounds out the Contempo triptych of concerts (March 2).

Third Coast Percussion will play Augusta Read Thomas’ Resounding Earth along with music of Guo Wenjing and John Cage (Feb. 21) and the Miami-based Seraphic Fire choir will perform Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ with the Spektral Quartet during Holy Week at Rockefeller Chapel (April 16). The Shanghai Quartet will celebrate its 30th anniversary and the Verdi bicentennial with an appearance that includes Verdi’s only string quartet (May 2).

Other debuts include Spain’s Cuerato Quartet (Nov. 1) and Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz (April 25).

Harris Theater (

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center returns for its third year of residency at Millennium Park’s Harris Theater but with a reduction from four to three programs this year.

Transplanting a New York holiday tradition to Chicago, the Society will present all six Bach Brandenburg Concertos in a single program (Dec. 18); “French Revelations” will spotlight 20th century French music and showcase works of Debussy, Ravel, Roussel and Françaix (March 18), and co-artistic directors David Finkel and Wu Han will conclude the series by traversing all five Beethoven Cello Sonatas (April 29).

Other events at Harris Theater include Denyce Graves with the Sphinx Virtuosi (Oct.1), Stephanie Blythe with Les Violons de Roy conducted by Bernard Labadie (Oct. 17 ), Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony, including a Harris commission by visual artist Netia Jones (Oct. 19) and Gidon Kramer and the Kramerata Baltica (Feb. 7).

Chicago Chamber Musicians (

The Britten centennial dominates much of the Chicago Chamber Musicians season, with Britten’s Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury and his Three Divertimenti for Strings being performed on its season opener (Sept. 22-23).

“Britten – Before and Beyond” includes Britten’s Nocturnal After John Dowland and Lachrymae, Op. 48, Reflections on a Song of Dowland with the original Dowland pieces that inspired Britten (Oct. 13-14) and Britten’s String Quartet No. 2 will be performed by the Borremeo Quartet (Nov. 3-4).

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.

Repeating the success of its 2011-12 complete Beethoven quartet cycle at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fullerton Hall followed by gallery walks that brilliantly managed to tie together revolutions in music, painting and sculpture, that same format is being used this season for a complete Bartók quartet cycle. (Sept. 15, Oct. 20, Nov. 24, Feb. 23, March 30).

Dempster Street Pro Musica (

In addition to its Sunday afternoon concerts at Evanston’s SPACE celebrating a wide variety of chamber music of all styles and from all periods (Nov. 17 and Feb. 23), Leonard Slatkin will host, narrate and conduct a special collaboration with the Chamber Music Society of St. Louis that will spotlight chamber music of Hollywood’s Golden Age by Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, Miklos Rozsa, Erich Korngold, Nino Rota, and Ennio Morricone.

Also included will be reconstructed songs and accompaniments from Frank Sinatra’s “Close to You” album that featured Slatkin’s parents, violinist Felix Slatkin and cellist Eleanor Aller (cello) with Sinatra vocalist Tom Heitman at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston. (April 20) Proceeds will go to support the Solti Foundation.

Orion Ensemble (

Now starting its 21st season, the Orion Ensemble opens with a program featuring Brahms clarinet and horn trios juxtaposed with a Paul Schoenfield trio (Sept. 8-22).

“Danube Destinations” showcases a Hindemith duet and quartet alongside of a Mozart quartet and a Beethoven trio (Oct. 27-Nov. 6) while “Sounds of Russia” includes Beethoven, Stravinisky and Rachmaninov (March 9-16). The season finale “Czech and American Romance” includes Dvořák and Gershwin along with Beethoven and Johann Andreas Amon (May 25-June 1).

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 International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) opens its season October 26 at MCA with a John Zorn retrospective.
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) opens its season October 26 at MCA with a John Zorn retrospective.

ICE and eighth blackbird at MCA (

The International Contemporary Ensemble will perform a John Zorn retrospective in honor of his 60th birthday that will include a recent Zorn work based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the world premiere of a new Zorn work written for ICE. Zorn will be in attendance for the concert (Oct. 26).

ICE will also perform three Alvin Lucier programs with the composer present amidst his own gallery installations in the MCA’s fourth floor atrium. Each of the concerts has limited attendance due to the setting, although the sound installations will be on view for several weeks.

One concert focuses on Lucier’s chamber music and will include a trio, a quartet and a sextet that he wrote for ICE. The second program spotlights music that develops from interactive dynamics such as a flute with wind anemometer and a piano with amplified teapot. The third program focuses on electronic music and will feature analog devices used to build sound fields that transform our experience (March 21-22).

Eighth blackbird will present a special MCA commission Columbine’s Paradise Theater, Amy Beth Kirsten’s adaptation of early 17th century poet and actress Isabella Andreini’s commedia dell’arte that calls for the musicians to wear masks, speak, sing, whisper, growl and mime in this modern take on am early dark comedy directed by Mark DeChiazza. The evening will open with a section of love songs through the ages from Machaut and Monteverdi to American folk ballads (March 8-9).

Ensemble Dal Niente (

Ensemble Dal Niente will present a Ryan Muncy album release concert at Constellation (Sept. 22) and an all-Johannes Kreidler concert co-sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center (Oct. 15). Also at the Cultural Center, the ensemble will present the Chicago premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee for flute, oboe, clarinet, percussion, two pianos, violin, viola and cello (March 9).

Dal Niente will also participate in the Latino Music Festival with soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw in a program of old and new music celebrating composers of Latin-American descent at the Harold Washington Library (Nov. 14).

Other Dal Niente programs at Constellation include a Chris Wild album release concert (Jan. 5), soprano Amanda DeBoer Barlett traversing George Aperghis’ entire Recitations for solo voice (Feb. 23), an all-Raphaël Cendo program (May 25) and Doyle Armbrust in a program of new works for viola (July 20). Dal Niente will also be ensemble-in-residence at Northwestern University’s first Conference for New Music (April 26-27).

Access Contemporary Music (

ACM’s resident ensemble Palomar presents a variety of concerts including the ninth annual “Open House Chicago” that opens the season where site-specific compositions are given at the places the music was composed for every twenty minutes between Noon-3 p.m. (Oct. 19); an album release concert at the Ukranian Museum of Art (Nov. 15); “Vanishing Point” which explores cross-genre music in the atrium space at Architectural Artifacts, where most ACM concerts are now held (Jan. 14); an all-Brazilian composers’ program spotlighting a world premiere by Alexandre Lunsqui (March 11); the Sound of Silent Film Festival at the Davis Theater (April 4-5) and the season finale Aaron Jay Kernis’ Goblin Market and other works (June 17).

MusicNOW (

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Monday night Harris Theater new music series kicks off with a concert featuring a multimedia work by British composer Benedict Mason that scatters players around the hall, a new work by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg and an electro-acoustic solo piano piece by Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy (Oct. 21).

Other concerts include world premieres by electronica artist Prefuse 73 (Guillermo Herren) and CSO co-composer-in-residence Mason Bates along with a solo work by Edgar Guzmán (Dec. 16); a world premiere of co-composer-in-residence Anna Clyne’s settings of Emily Dickinson, an electro-acoustic work of Argentinian Martin Matalon and a re-imagination of old-time string band music by Mason Bates. (Feb. 3); the season finale includes music connected to imagery, dance and architecture including music of Oscar Bettison inspired by a lithograph, a solo cello work of Anna Clyne’s choreographed by Kitty McNamee of the Los Angeles-based Hysterica Dance Company, and music of Andrew Norman responding to Roman architecture (May 5).

Fifth House Ensemble (

The contemporary quartet’s season opens with a concert of works by Mason Bates, Alex Shapiro, Jacob TV, a Johan Halvorsen Handel transcription and Villa-Lobos at Constellation (Sept 17). Other announced appearances include the Sunday Salon Series at Preston Bradley Hall (Oct. 6) the Park Ridge Public Library (Oct. 10) and the Musical Offering’s Music on Madison series (Oct. 17).

Fulcrum Point New Music Project (

Fulcrum Point New Music Project season opens tonight with its 15th annual Concert for Peace, a concert of contemporary and classical music from India and America at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion (Sept. 11). A Logan Center performance will celebrate Fulcrum Point’s ten-year collaboration with Thodos Dance Company by revisiting works that have marked that collaboration (Sept. 20). There will also be an appearance at Art Expo Chicago (Sept. 21), a concert of new music for winds (Oct. 7) and new music for strings (Nov. 11) and a collaboration with Third Coast Percussion and Gaudette Brass (Dec. 20).


William Ferris Chorale (

Named for the beloved chorus master who founded, led and wrote for the group for nearly thirty years, the William Ferris Chorale continues to thrive under its co-founder John Vorrasi and the music directorship of Paul French.

The Britten centennial will be celebrated in a performance of his fragrant Flower Songs juxtaposed with Vincent Persichetti’s settings of e. e. cummings poetry also celebrating spring and flowers. (May 3-4).

This season’s Christmas program spotlights music of Morten Lauridsen (Dec. 8-15), while “The French Connection” features works of Faure and Vierne (March 1-2).

Bella Voce (

Now over thirty years old and originally founded as His Majestie’s Clerkes, Bella Voce has a fascinating season in store that includes a program devoted to Josquin des Prez’s celebrated Missa L’homme armé and other examples of High Renaissance polyphony by Josquin and Ockengem (April 26-27).

Other performances include a collaboration with the Callipygian Players for Handel’s Messiah (Nov. 23-24), a program of music by Baltic composers Vekjo Tormis, Arvo Pärt and others (Oct. 5-6), an annual holiday program (Dec. 21-22) and the debut of the Bella Voce Camerata, a one-per-part ensemble that will perform David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Little Match Girl Passion in its original version and Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri (March 22-23). Music director Andrew Lewis conducts all Bella Voce concerts.

Chicago a cappella (

Founded in 1993 by Jonathan Miller and made up of professional singers, Chicago a cappella is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a special showcase season opener conducted by Miller that will feature its favorite spirituals, Renaissance music, folk songs, sacred works and pop tunes as well as music of Ravel, Chicago composer Stacey Garrop and the world premiere of The Windhover, a new commission from composer Paul Crabtree based on the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oct. 12-19). Miller will also lead a program of Jewish music from around the world (Feb. 16-23).

Former Bella Voce artistic director Anne Heider will conduct a holiday program of European and American carols, spirituals, folksongs and Chanukah music (Dec. 1-14) and Rollo Dilworth will lead a program that explores the genesis of gospel music, which began in Chicago (April 11-13).

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