Hugh Wolff, back for his third summer at the helm of the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, is one of those all-American baby-boomer maestros destined to take over a major orchestral post. Meanwhile the Paris-born, Harvard-educated Wolff is biding his time getting familiar with contemporary classics and the basic classical repertoire. Judging from his performances with the Grant Parkers and his recordings with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra–his regular crew–he certainly knows how to pump up the excitement. Though Wolff is by no means a subtle interpreter with a distinctive personality, his approach to musical structure is usually clear and cogent. His two all-Beethoven programs that kick off Grant Park’s ten-week season should be a special treat. One might quibble with the surfeit of Beethoven, but the sensibly assembled fare–the Leonore Overture no. 1 and no. 2, which will be played back-to-back in the first program on Friday, and Symphony no. 1 and no. 9, to be performed in the second program on Saturday and Sunday–offers a chance for insightful comparison. Wolff has recruited a veteran pianist and a quartet of up-and-coming singers who, though busy on the festival circuit, are relatively new to Chicago. Vladimir Feltsman, whose star has waned a bit lately, is the soloist in the first program’s Emperor Concerto. Soprano Camellia Johnson, who solos in the heroic scena “Ah, perfido!,” joins mezzo Theresa Brancaccio, tenor Philip Webb, baritone Gary Martin, and the Grant Park Symphony Chorus for the “Ode to Joy” finale in the Ninth. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 7 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 742-4763 or 742-7638. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Christian Steiner.