Critic’s Choice

Thu Sep 18, 2014 at 12:04 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Riccardo Muti. Photo: Todd Rosenberg
Riccardo Muti. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Riccardo Muti kicks off his fifth season as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this week with a typical whirlwind of events.

Tonight’s opening program is devoted to Beethoven’s epic Symphony No. 9 with the CSO Chorus and soloists soprano Camila Nylund, mezzo Ekaterina Gubanova, tenor Matthew Polenzani (subbing for an ailing Christopher Ventris) and bass-baritone Eric Owens. The program will be repeated (with tenor William Burden) 3 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. All three performances are sold out but turnback tickets may be available.

You have a better chance of nabbing a spot for the CSO’s free all-Tchaikovsky concert in Millennium Park 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Pritzker Pavilion. Muti will lead the orchestra in the tone poem The Tempest, a suite from the ballet Sleeping Beauty and the Symphony No. 4.; 312-294-3000.

Also, the Chicago Philharmonic opens its 25th anniversary season with a notably adventurous lineup Sunday in Evanston. Scott Speck leads the orchestra in a “Nordic Sounds” program featuring Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet Overture, Arvo Pärt’s Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte, Nielsen’s Symphony No. 1 and Niels Gade’s Violin Concerto with soloist Christina Åstrand. Concert time is 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Pick-Staiger Hall.; 312-957-0000.


Those looking for something with a quiet modernist edge should check out this weekend’s Wandelweiser Festival Copresented by and Frequency Series, the event spotlights composers of the Wandelweiser School, which incorporates silence and hushed ambient sound into its music.

The festival will lead off 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Constellation with the ensemble performing music by Swiss composer Jürg Frey, from their new CD, more or less, along with the premiere of a new Frey work written for the occasion. Sunday at 8:30 p.m. pianist R. Andrew Lee will perform music of Frey, Craig Shepard, Eva-Maria Houben, and Michael Pisaro at Constellation. The concert will be preceded by a panel discussion at 6:30 with Lee, composers Frey and Eva-Maria Houben, and director Nomi Epstein on the history and music of the Wandelweiser Group.

The festival will close with Eva-Maria Houben performing her own organ music 8 p.m. Monday at Rockefeller Chapel.

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