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Chicago Symphony Orchestra

After four weeks of filler concerts, the CSO season ends with two of the most promising programs of the ear, both under the direction of Klaus Tennstedt, and both spotlighting Mahler. Yes, Mahler is a frequently heard composer here, but with what Tennstedt brings to these works, they take on a whole new sound and […]

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Size Counts

THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO Chamber Opera Chicago at the Ruth Page Auditorium Chamber Opera Chicago’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro reminded me of something Luciano Pavarotti said a couple of years back–before he embarked on his latest and most successful weight-loss campaign. Pavarotti admitted that he had given up the role of Ferrando […]

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Handel With Care

JOSHUA Basically Bach at Saint James Cathedral May 18 CHORAL ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO at Saint Paul’s United Church of Christ May 20 The greatest single pleasure of the blossoming of early-music groups in Chicago in recent years is that occasionally we get the opportunity to hear a long-neglected masterpiece. Such was the case when Basically […]

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Symphony Futures

CIVIC ORCHESTRA OF CHICAGO at Orchestra Hall April 26 and May 12 The notion of listening to a training orchestra, however fine, doesn’t seem very enticing. I used to hear the Civic Orchestra on a regular basis when I was in college, receiving tickets as a bonus to my CSO “University Night” series (whatever happened […]

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Indian Corn

LAKME Chicago Opera Theater at the Athenaeum Theatre Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be caught dead at a performance of Leo Delibes’ Lakme, a silly opera with a ridiculously stereotyped 19th-century view of Indian culture. The music is pure syrup, though it can have a certain charm to it if the right coloratura is found […]

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Keyboard in Limbo

MALCOLM BILSON at the Scottish Rite Cathedral May 5 Although Bach is said to have heard an early prototype of the fortepiano when he visited Frederick the Great, it apparently made little or no impression on him, for he never wrote for the instrument. Bach was an old man near the end of his life […]

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Tony Williams Quintet

The best description I’ve heard of Tony Williams’s drumming came from a soprano friend of mine who labeled it “lead feathers.” Indeed, Williams seems to take thunder and bottle it so that he can dispense it at will. The control and musicianship he exhibits on an instrument that all too often is simply an ornamented […]

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His Majestie’s Clrekes With Orpheus Band

When the Evanston-based chamber choir known as His Majestie’s Clerkes teamed up last year with the Newberry Consort, the joint concert was the early-music highlight of the year. Now the Clerkes have combined a collaboration with gifted local players–in this case the new baroque string ensemble founded by Kevin Mason known as Orpheus Band–with another […]

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Organ Abuse

PULITZER PIPES: NEW MUSIC FOR THE ORGAN New Music Chicago at Alice Millar Chapel April 23 The church where I went as a kid didn’t have a very impressive organ or organist, so that was not the source of my initial attraction to the instrument. My friends and I were impressed with the fact that […]

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Grave Matters

THE LIFEWORK OF JUAN DIAZ and GIANNI SCHICCHI Chamber Opera Chicago In Mexico All Saints’ Day–or the Day of the Dead–has the character of a sacred holiday, unlike our mostly secular Halloween. It’s a day for celebrating death with everything from nighttime candle-lighted processions to cemeteries to giving children candy skeletons. Mexican culture rarely approaches […]

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Anne-Sophie Mutter

Sometimes I pray silently during violin recitals: “Deliver us, O Lord, from the Juilliard sound.” With Anne-Sophie Mutter, my prayers have finally been answered. Her Solti-conducted CSO debut last year playing the Beethoven violin concerto was one of the most expressive and refreshing performances of that overdone war-horse I’ve ever heard, incorporating an astonishing variety […]

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Henry Sparnaay

One doesn’t generally think of the bass clarinet as anything more than bottom-end reinforcement for a wind section within a larger ensemble, and certainly not as a solo instrument that can stand on its own. That was before Dutch bass clarinetist Harry Sparnaay came along. Sparnaay has completely rethought the possibilities of the instrument and […]

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The Odd Trio

STOLTZMAN/GOODE/STOLTZMAN TRIO at Orchestra Hall April 16 AMERICAN WOMEN COMPOSERS–MIDWEST at the Rhona Hoffman Gallery April 20 Since the three members of the Stoltzman/Goode/Stoltzman Trio are superb musicians, and since their program looked unusually interesting, I had high expectations when the group made its local debut last week as part of Chamber Music Chicago’s 30th-anniversary […]

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American Women Composers–Midwest

All of the compositions on this program sponsored by the midwest chapter of American Women Composers are by women, but that in itself would mean very little if it weren’t for the extraordinary creativity that each of these composers displays. Janice Misurell Mitchell’s Transfusions is a brassy bebop romp emphasizing canon and musical gesture, while […]