Kalmar’s Grant Park contract renewed through 2021; festival lineup announced for this summer

Wed Jan 04, 2017 at 12:01 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Carlos Kalmar's contract as artistic director and principal conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival has been extended through 2021.
Carlos Kalmar’s contract as artistic director and principal conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival has been extended through 2021.

For fans of adventurous symphonic programming, one could hardly start off the new year with better news.

Carlos Kalmar, artistic director and principal conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival, has had his contract renewed for five years, and he will continue to lead Chicago’s summer concert series through 2021.

“I am thrilled to be with Grant Park,” said Kalmar. “The creativity, the artistic level, the people who work for the festival, the musicians, singers, board staff, and mainly, the wonderful audience of Chicago are the main reasons why I am happy to stay on.”

The news comes in tandem with the announcement of the lakefront music festival’s 2017 season.  While the increasing number of pop and crossover programs is worrisome, Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra will still serve up a deft mix of popular classical standards with choice rarities including several works by American composers.

Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra will open the festival June 14 at the Pritzker Pavilion with Hugo Alfvén’s Festival Overture, the Gershwin/Russell Bennett Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture, and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with soloist Vadim Gluzman.

Aaron Jay Kernis will be the composer in residence for 2017. Kalmar will lead the Grant Park Orchestra in the world premiere of a new horn concerto (August 11-12), commissioned by the festival for the orchestra’s principal, Jonathan Boen.

As always, the festival will offer several offbeat items this summer, including the Midwest premieres of Frank Martin’s oratorio In terra pax (July 28-29), Kareem Roustom’s Ramal (July 12), David Schiff’s Infernal (June 23-24), and the U.S. premiere of Matthew Hindson’s Headbanger (July 14-15).

Kalmar will conduct Ralph Vaughan Williams’ epic Sea Symphony (June 16-17), Tchaikovsky’s Manfred symphony (August 11-12), Stravinsky’s complete Firebird (June 23-24), George Chadwick’s Symphonic Sketches (August 16) and Copland’s Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson, with soprano soloist Susanna Phillips (June 21). Kalmar will once again close the festival with a choral program, this year featuring Brahms Schickalslied and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (August 18-19) with vocal soloists Janai Brugger, Allyson McHardy, Brendan Tuohy and Russell Braun.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya will conduct the festival premiere of Roberto Sierra’s Missa Latina, a sprawling choral work that mixes Latin music, classical, and jazz elements, with soprano soloist Jennifer Rivera (June 28 and 30).

Other guest soloists include Stephen Hough in Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 (July 26); Conrad Tao in the Khachaturian Piano Concerto (June 23-24); Andrew Tyson in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (July 14-15); guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas in Rodrigo’s Fantasía para un gentilhombre (August 2); François Leleux in Strauss’s Oboe Concerto (August 4-5); Harriet Krijgh in Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major (August 16); and Angelo Xiang Yu in Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 (July 19).

Several guest conductors will make their festival debuts including Simone Young, who will lead Strauss’s Symphonia domestica (July 14-15), Fawzi Haimor with Haydn and Hindemith (July 12), and Brett Mitchell (July 19). Chorus director Christopher Bell will lead two off-site performances of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers (July 13 and 18).

Lighter concerts include the traditional Independence Day program (July 4-5), an evening of romantic music from Broadway musicals (July 21-22), a tribute to the Canadian Brass in honor of Canada’s 150th anniversary (July 1), an evening of John Williams’ film music (July 7-8), and a concert with Mariachi Cobre (August 9).

Memberships to the Grant Park Music Festival 2017 season start at $96 and go on sale January 5. Packages of various concerts are available with different numbers of events and exchange privileges. Go to gpmf.org or call 312-742-7647.

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