Esa-Pekka Salonen Credit: Todd Rosenberg

During this visit to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen presents two proven ticket sellers in Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, but the program’s real draw is the local premiere of Scheherazade.2 by John Adams (in honor of the composer’s recent 70th birthday). In his program notes for conductor David Robertson’s performance of the piece with the Saint Louis Symphony—released last year by Nonesuch—Adams says that his “dramatic symphony” was inspired by an art exhibition he attended at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. The exhibit traced the long history of the Arabian Nights, in particular the wily, resourceful female protagonist, Scheherazade, who represents a woman fighting back against the endless subjection, oppression, and abuse of her sex throughout history. Adams uses the violin as the stand-in for the character, and the recording features the fiery, virtuosic playing of Leila Josefowicz, who’ll also perform tonight. Her defiant, endlessly muscular lines stand up to lush, powerhouse orchestrations that unfold in four movements over the course of 50 extroverted minutes riddled with biting cimbalom accents.   v