Grant Park Music Festival to go from Bach to Zwilich in 85th season

Mon Jan 07, 2019 at 11:57 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Carlos Kalmar will mark his 20th season leading the Grant Park Music Festival in 2019. File photo: Norman Timonera

The Grant Park Music Festival will open its 85th season June 12 with music of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and close August 16-17 with Gustav Mahler’s “Resurrection” symphony.

This  year is a significant one for the summer lakefront festival, marking the 15th anniversary of its Pritzker Pavilion home, as well as Carlos Kalmar’s 20th anniversary leading the festival concerts.

“Twenty years is a very large slice of life,” said Kalmar, the festival’s artistic director and principal conductor, on Monday afternoon. “But it doesn’t feel like that.”

“When I started we were still at the Petrillo Bandshell and it was a very different kind of festival,” he recalls. “I think the festival has really grown artistically since then. And, of course, the construction of the Pritzker Pavilion really fueled that growth.”

“It was a nice orchestra and the chorus was doing its job. But I think it’s fair to say that the orchestra is now excellent and the chorus is outstanding. That allowed us to go to places we couldn’t go before and expose the audience to a much wider range of music. We can pretty much play anything now.”

This summer’s ten weeks of concerts at Millennium Park will indeed spotlight the versatility of the Grant Park Orchestra and the Grant Park Chorus. The 85th season lineup brings four commissioned world premieres, including an orchestral work by Chicago-based composer Stacy Garrop (June 21-22), and a work for chorus and orchestra by Kareem Roustom (June 14-15). Other premieres include a choral piece by Lori Laitman (July 18 and 22), and a chamber work by Joel Thompson for the festival’s Project Inclusion String Quartet.

In addition to Mahler’s epic Second Symphony, Christopher Bell’s Grant Park Chorus will be featured in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (June 28-29), Carl Vine’s Symphony No. 6 (“Choral”) (June 14-15) and Frederick Delius’s A Mass of Life (August 9-10), as well as the off-site a cappella program led by chorus director Bell (July 18-22). The festival will also present the Midwest premiere of Gabriel Kahane’s emergency shelter intake form for chorus and orchestra (July 5-6).

As always, American music will figure prominently on the lakefront this summer. Homegrown works on tap include Zwilich’s Jubilation (June 12), Gershwin’s Concerto in F with pianist Jeffrey Kahane (July 5-6), Copland’s Appalachian Spring (July 8 and 11) and Rodeo (July 31), Edward MacDowell’s Suite No. 2 “Indian” (July 31), Higdon’s blue cathedral and Bernstein’s Serenade (with soloist Vadim Gluzman) (August 2 and 3), Amy Beach’s Variations on a Balkan Theme and Morton Gould’s Cowboy Rhapsody (August 14 and 16).

Soloists making their debut this summer will include Augustin Hadelich performing Brahms’ Violin Concerto (June 21-22); Chicago-born brothers clarinetist Anthony McGill and flutist Demarre McGill in Joel Puckett’s Concerto Duo (July 26-27); Yolanda Kondonassis in Ginastera’s Harp Concerto (July 17), violinist Benjamin Beilman in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (June 12), and cellist Edgar Moreau in a real curio, Frederich Gulda’s Cello Concerto (July 24). Guest conductors making their festival bows are Cristian Măcelaru, Martyn Brabbins, Norman Huynh and Lawrence Loh. 

Returning maestri are David Danzmayr and Emmanuel Villaume. Among the returning soloists are violinist Gluzman, pianists Inon Barnatan, Steven Hough and Conrad Tao, and soprano Susanna Phillips.

Other works on tap this summer are Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe (July 8 and 11), Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 (June 12), Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (July 19-20) and Symphony No. 8 (June 14-15), Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 (June 19) and Symphony No. 38 (August 2-3). Also Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1 (June 21-22), Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite (July 17), Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 (July 17), Vaughan Williams’ “London” symphony (No. 2) (July 19-20), Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 (July 26-27), Busoni’s Symphonic Suite (June 19) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Suite from The Tale of Tsar Saltan (August 14).

Among the populist events are a night of Viennese waltzes (June 26), the traditional  Independence Day Salute (July 4), a tribute to Tony- and Academy Award-winning music (July 12-13); The Mambo Kings (August 7), and an 80th anniversary screening of The Wizard of Oz with live orchestral accompaniment (July 10).

While lawn seating remains free, memberships for reserved seating start at $99. Go to or call 312-742-7647. 


Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Comment