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Premieres in the Park

GRANT PARK SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at the Petrillo Music Shell July 8, 11, and 18 You’re not likely to hear the unusual works often offered at Grant Park anywhere else around town, as was evidenced in several recent premieres. What’s more, the sound of the orchestra is tremendously improved, due to some fine new talent in […]

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Heart and Soul

HEINRICH SCHIFF at Ravinia Festival July 9 SHURA CHERKASSKY at Ravinia Festival July 10 The first two Ravinia recitals of the summer brought to mind a recent discussion with a rock-music producer concerning the difference between performers who are capable of evoking music and performers who simply go through the motions. Music, we agreed, is […]

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Sounds of the 60s

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at Ravinia Festival June 30 and July 6 and 7 Ravinia has taken a lot of heat in recent years for its conservative programming and particularly for avoiding new music. The reasons given are well-known–they basically boil down to the CSO’s need to prepare three times its usual repertoire in a week’s […]

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Art Over Nature

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at Ravinia Festival June 22 and 23 Last year’s Ravinia opening was fraught with speculation that it could well be the last for the festival’s music director, James Levine, who was said to be heading to Berlin to succeed the retiring Herbert von Karajan. How things can change in a year. Von […]

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Prince Igor

PRINCE IGOR Grant Park Symphony Orchestra at the Petrillo Music Shell June 22 and 24 Aleksandr Borodin is wonderful proof that one can be an extraordinarily talented composer and yet devote one’s professional life to something else completely. Borodin’s vocation as a physician and chemist as well as a composer and member of the nationalistic […]

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Grant Park Symphony Orchestra

You have to hand it to artistic director Steven Ovitsky for coming up with one of the most unusual ideas ever for a Grant Park opening night: Borodin’s monumental Prince Igor, which, next to Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, is probably the most famous example of 19th-century Russian grand opera. Prince Igor is heard so rarely that […]

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Conductors in Haydn

MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE at Saint Paul’s Church June 6 CONCERTANTE DI CHICAGO at DePaul University Concert Hall June 10 Music of the Baroque ended its season recently with a major work from the Classical era, Haydn’s The Creation. Like virtually all of the Mozart pieces MOB has performed in the last few years, The […]

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Maarten Altena Octet

Bassist Maarten Altena is one of the pioneers of the so-called “Dutch school” of jazz, which is to say he was one of the first to combine an American concept of jazz with a European style of composition. The result sounds like Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale gone berserk, a wildly eclectic smorgasbord of folk dance, […]

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It’s well-known that Puccini and Gershwin wanted to set Ferenc Molnar’s play Liliom operatically, and that the Hungarian playwright denied them permission. But Molnar was so charmed by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first effort, Oklahoma!, that he granted them the right to set his play to music. It’s fascinating to speculate what Puccini or, Gershwin might […]

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Master of Mahler

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at Orchestra Hall May 31 and June 7 A colleague told me he had put on what he considered to be an excellent record of the Mahler First Symphony recorded by the Chicago Symphony in anticipation of performances of the work under Klaus Tennstedt. After hearing what Tennstedt did with the work, […]

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Recognizing Our Own

THE MUSIC OF GEORGE PERLE at the DePaul University Concert Hall June 1 ARLEEN AUGER AND NED ROREM at Orchestra Hall June 3 George Perle is probably the most significant composer ever to come out of Chicago. More important composers may have lived or worked here–Prokofiev even lived in Chicago for a time–but Perle developed […]

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If you consider the ways that most of us experience classic Broadway musicals these days–i.e. in dinner-theater revivals with three-piece orchestras that include synthesizer and ukulele, or in enormous arenas where the singers wear body mikes and the orchestra is heard through tinny amplification–then the notion of an opera company tackling this uniquely American art […]

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Second Vision

CHICAGO SINFONIETTA at Orchestra Hall May 21 It’s tough to be a second orchestra in Chicago. Just ask anyone who was involved with the now-defunct Orchestra of Illinois, which was the winter name for what still becomes the Lyric Opera Orchestra in the fall and the Grant Park Symphony in the summer. Why then is […]