Posted inMusic

Beauty in the Strangest Places

Chicago Symphony Orchestraat Orchestra Hall, November 27, December 3, and December 10 Pierre Boulez is the best orchestra conductor alive. He’s also the most cold-blooded. His rep hasn’t changed for decades: he’s the ultraintellectual modernist, the disdainer of imprecision and emotional sloppiness, the unyielding advocate of all music harsh, obscure, and avant-garde. It’s true that […]

Posted inMusic

Reasons to be Cheerful

Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, October 1 By Lee Sandlin The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s first subscription concert of the season was an OK evening’s entertainment, featuring passable performances of a couple of old standards, the Brahms First Symphony and the act three prelude of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, together with the American premiere of an […]

Posted inMusic

Taking Liberties

Fidelio Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, May 26 By Sarah Bryan Miller The Enlightenment was an optimistic time, and the men who shaped the age believed that their optimism was justified. They’d thrown off the shackles of superstition-based religious authority and governmental tyranny, and in their vision of the future, humanity would rise from […]

Posted inMusic

The Sound of Mental Distrubance

Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, March 12 and 19 By Lee Sandlin Modernist music is about a century old, and nobody knows yet what to do with it. Its proponents used to push it on audiences with millennial fervor: they would tell you, quite seriously, that its shrieking dissonances and insane chromatic harmonies were […]

Posted inMusic

Aching Beauty

Yo-Yo Ma at Orchestra Hall, March 8 By Michael Solot When Yo-Yo Ma arrives at a certain pitch of intensity in performance, you not only hear his passion in the music but see it plainly in the man. He snaps his head sharply in time to the beat, whipping his hair this way and that. […]

Posted inMusic

Over Powered

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, February 13 By Lee Sandlin Riccardo Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, currently on a world tour, stopped off at Orchestra Hall the other night for one sold-out concert. On the bill were Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto and Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Chailly has been getting ecstatic […]

Posted inMusic

Forced Marriage

Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall, February 5 By Lee Sandlin There’s a rule orchestras follow about new music: they always play it in the first half of the concert, and they always follow it up with one of the blandest, safest, most overplayed works in the repertoire. Their assumption is that audiences hate any […]