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Chicago Symphony lays out autumn concerts, but defers spring announcement to October 

Submitted by on Jul 16, 2021 – 9:29 pm

Virtuoso Lang Lang will perform Bach’s monumental ‘Goldberg’ Variations. (© Olaf Heine)

Report: Pianist Lang Lang plays Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations; conductor Michael Tilson Thomas leads two CSO programs.

By Lawrence B. Johnson

Brick by reconstructive brick, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s emergence from its long pandemic null into new and full vigor is taking form. A newly released second wave of concert dates, extending into the first weekend of 2022, provides healthy signs of a recognizable season, not only for the orchestras but also for the chamber music, recitals and jazz performances that keep the stage lights burning at Symphony Center.

Complete programming details for the winter-spring portion of the season will be announced in mid-October. The CSO previously released plans for the first three weeks of the new season, starting Sept. 23 and covering the initial concerts under music director Riccardo Muti.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads back to back concerts of Prokofiev and Brahms. (© Art Schreiber)

Circle-in-red highlights pop out of the freshly added CSO programming, starting with a two-week visit by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, former music director of the San Francisco Symphony, who has paired two Prokofiev piano concertos with the two Brahms serenades. Ukrainian-born pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk joins Thomas as soloist for Prokofiev’s concise, fireworks-laden Piano Concerto No. 1 (Oct. 21-23), and Russian virtuoso Denis Matsuev takes the spotlight for Prokofiev’s immensely popular Piano Concerto No. 3 (Oct. 28-30).

Two CSO principal players will take on solo roles this fall. John Sharp plays Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1 (Oct. 14-17) with conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. He also leads Schumann’s Second Symphony and “La nuit et l’amour” by Augusta Holmès, who learned her craft as a protégée of César Franck in 1870s Paris. Concertmaster Robert Chen is the soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with conductor Marek Janowski (Nov. 4-6) on a program with Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides” Overture and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C major (“Jupiter”).

A new CSO commission by the composer Gabriela Lena Frank is planned. (© Mariah Tauger)

December brings two world premieres, both led by visiting conductors. Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg’s new Serenades, a CSO co-commission, shares a program (Dec. 2-4), led by Hannu Lintu, with Brahms’ Fourth Symphony and Lalo’s “Symphonie espagnole” featuring violinist Ray Chen (no relation to the CSO concertmaster). Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Haillí-Serenata,” commissioned by the Chicago Symphony, comes up the following week on another program co-starring a violinist, Hilary Hahn, who takes the solo role in the Dvořák concerto. Conductor Andres Orozco-Estrada rounds out his program with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

Handel’s “Messiah” returns to Orchestra Hall (Dec. 16-19) when Baroque maestro Nicholas McGegan conducts the combined forces of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus together with a quartet of vocal soloists.

Pianist Yuja Wang will perform duo sonatas with violinist Leonidas Kavakos. (©JuliaWesely)

Lang Lang opens the Symphony Center Presents piano series Oct. 8 with an excursion through Bach monumental “Goldberg” Variations, and Daniil Trifonov follows Nov. 12 with a program of Prokofiev’s “Sarcasms,” Brahms’ Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 5, and works by Debussy and Szymanowski. Symphony Center’s opening concert of chamber music pairs violinist Leonidas Kavakos with pianist Yuja Wang in a program of sonatas by Bach, Busoni and Shostakovich on Nov. 7.

The season’s first concert in the contemporary MusicNOW series, on Nov. 1, includes the world premiere of Elijah Daniel Smith’s “Scions of Atlas,” commissioned by MusicNOW, and works by CSO composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery among others.

Conductor Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl, returns to Chicago.

The Civic Orchestra of Chicago, under the aegis of the Chicago Symphony, will perform two works by prominent African American composers, Adolphus Hailstork’s “An American Port of Call” and William Grant Still’s “Afro-American” Symphony. The Nov. 8 concert will be conducted by Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Under its principal conductor, Ken-David Masur, the Civic Orchestra will play Bach’s six “Brandenburg” Concertos on Dec. 6 at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St.

But it’s jazz that opens the fall season at Symphony Center — a performance by keyboard star Herbie Hancock on Sept. 2.

Complete details of the fall season at Symphony Center and ticketing information are available here.

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