Critic’s Choice

Wed Mar 16, 2016 at 9:41 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Kent Nagano
Kent Nagano

It’s been 28 long years since the Montreal Symphony Orchestra last played in Chicago, and much has happened in the interim.

Charles Dutoit raised the provincial ensemble to a first-tier orchestra with international status and a plethora of highly praised Decca recordings. That rise was not without costs as the Swiss conductor’s autocratic methods led to growing resentment by the players. After a statement of protest about Dutoit’s “intolerable” behavior by the musicians union, Dutoit abruptly resigned from the orchestra in 2002.

After a period of economic retrenchment, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal appears to be back and currently in a new golden age under music director Kent Nagano, Dutoit’s successor. The orchestra opened its new concert hall home in 2011, and is recording again for Decca with the first fruits of the partnership an impressive tw0-disc set of L’Aiglon, an intriguing opera jointly composed by Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert.

Chicago concertgoers can judge for themselves the current state of the Quebec orchestra 8 p.m. Friday night when Nagano brings the Montreal Symphony to Orchestra Hall. The program includes Debussy’s Jeux, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Daniil Trifonov as soloist.; 312-294-3000.


The Chicago Chorale continues its 15th anniversary season this weekend with Rachmaninoff’s rarely heard Vespers. The composer stated that this setting of the Russia Orthodox liturgy was his personal favorite of all his works, and it is surely among the most beautiful a cappella choral pieces of the 20th century.

Bruce Tammen leads the Chicago Chorale in Rachmaninoff’s Vespers 8 p.m. Saturday at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church and 3 p.m. Sunday at Hyde Park Union Church.

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