Six world premieres to highlight 2022 Grant Park Music Festival

Tue Jan 11, 2022 at 12:01 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Carlos Kalmar will open this summer’s Grant Park Music Festival on June 15 with works by Mozart, Wagner and Florence Price.

Six world premieres will be on tap in the Grant Park Music Festival’s 2022 season.  The festival will open June 15 and run through August 20 for its standard span of ten weeks—after last summer’s slightly abridged season—-and offer the usual deftly balanced lineup of offbeat and rarely heard works alongside beloved orchestral favorites. 

Artistic director Carlos Kalmar will launch the summer season June 15, leading a program of Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, “Haffner,” orchestral excerpts from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement with Michelle Cann as soloist.

The six commissioned world premieres are divided evenly between mainstage premieres and recital items. The former include Blue Matter by Mischa Zupko, a Flute Concerto by Christopher Theofanidis with soloist Marina Piccinini, and Zofomorphosis by the Australian Carl Vine. Piccinini and pianist Andreas Haefliger will also present Mark the Date by John Harbison and an untitled premiere by Tebogo Monnakgotla. Billy Childs’ String Quartet will be debuted by the festival’s Project Inclusion String Quartet.

“I think we’ve got a very, very nice mixture,” said Kalmar, from his new home in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with intermittent cell phone dropouts due to the thick walls. (Kalmar recently took up a post at the Cleveland Institute of Music.)

“I’m very excited that we are finally doing the piece by Mischa Zupko,” he said. Originally scheduled for the canceled 2020 festival, that festival-commissioned work for orchestra and chorus fell victim to the pandemic. Then they couldn’t perform it last summer because it calls for a much larger chorus than they were able to field due to Covid stage restrictions.

“Mischa is from Chicago, as you know,” said Kalmar. “I will say he went through great pains to find a text that he thinks is appropriate. [Blue Matter] has parts that are very high energy and not slow. It really requires quite a professional ensemble. Let’s put it this way—it’s not the easiest piece in the universe!”

“We are pairing his work with a piece by Judith Weir (We Are Shadows). One goes in one direction, and the other goes in a very different direction. Judith’s work is maybe more ethereal, where Mischa’s work is more earthy. I think that mixture will be wonderful.”

There are not many large works for chorus and orchestra Kalmar has not done in his 22 years leading the lakefront festival but he will be leading his first festival performance of one this summer. “Britten’s Spring Symphony—oh yeah, baby! This will be a first.”

The conductor is also looking forward to directing performances of Haydn’s The Creation, doing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 “The Year 1905” and revisiting Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (at the Harris Theater). “This is my last chance to do this piece in Chicago, so I thought why not?”

“We are also doing Augusta Holmès’ Andromède. Who has ever heard of that piece?!”

Kalmar also mentioned in passing that he will be conducting fewer weeks in his final two festival seasons (2023 and 2024). That is likely so the festival can bring in more guest conductors to see who might click with the orchestra as a possible successor. (Unlike the case with the CSO, there is not a bumper crop of candidates who have enjoyed success as podium guests at the lakefront festival in recent seasons.)

The 2022 festival will also mark the 60th anniversary of the Grant Park Chorus with Christopher Bell leading the ensemble August 4 in an a cappella program of music by Barber, Eric Whitacre, and Morten Lauridsen. The chorus will be collaborating with the GPO in Britten’s Spring Symphony as stated (June 29 and July 1), Vaughan Williams’ Dona nobis pacem, (August 12-13) and the season-closing performances of Haydn’s The Creation (August 19-20).

In addition to all three major choral works, Kalmar will also lead performances of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 “Reformation” (June 17-18); Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and George Chadwick’s Angel of Death (June 22); Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 “The Year 1905” (June 24-25); Franck’s Symphony in D minor (August 10); Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (August 5-6); Suk’s A Fairy Tale and the suite from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty (August 17); and Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 (July 29-30).  

Guest conductors for classical programs will be David Chan, Miguel Harth Bedoya, and Markus Stenz. Sarah Hicks, Kimberly Grigsby, and Charles Floyd will handle the pops and family events.

Other soloists include the piano duo ZOFO (Vine premiere); clarinetist Afendi Yusuf (Mozart); violinists Rachel Barton Pine (Billy Childs’ Violin Concerto No. 2), Simone Lamsma (Korngold), and Christian Tetzlaff (Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1); pianists Simon Trpčeski (Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2), and Andreas Haefliger (Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand); and percussionist She-e Wu (Higdon’s Percussion Concerto).

Vocal soloists include Ellie Dehn, Susan Platts and John Matthews Myers (Spring Symphony); and Janai Brugger, Duke Kim and Douglas Williams (The Creation).

Festival memberships are now available.

Posted in News

Leave a Comment