Articles by Lawrence B. Johnson
Review: The Pacifica Quartet offered a stunning reminder in its concert Sunday at the University of Chicago that the quartets of Shostakovich stand shoulder to shoulder with Beethoven’s as exemplars of the form, great and deeply personal expressions. *****
The Pacifica Quartet has been playing complete cycles of Beethoven’s 16 string quartets and Shostakovich’s 15 in international venues over the last couple of years. Violist Masumi Per Rostad talks about the enduring importance of both composers.
The American guitarist David Russell got my attention a few years back with a CD of Renaissance music that included some very fine readings of works by John Dowland. That same technical finesse and artful musicianship grace this wide-ranging collection of pieces by Isaac Albeniz.
Sardonic, but clear-sighted. 3 stars
Interview: Actor Sadieh Rifai thought Jessica’s Dickey’s play “The Amish Project,” at American Theater Company, would be a pretty straight-forward one-woman show. The plays is based on the 2006 shooting of 10 school girls in Pennsylvania. Rifai would be switching among seven characters, but she didn’t see that as a big deal. She was in for a big surprise.
Review: Conductor Bernard Haitink and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra summoned performances of exceptional clarity in Schubert’s chamber-size Fifth Symphony and Mahler’s grand-scaled Fourth Symphony. *****
At the Royal George Theatre. 4 stars!
Interview: Actor Kirsten Fitzgerald portrays two very different characters amid the hurlyburly of “Clybourne Park, the double-edged drama by Bruce Norris now playing at Steppenwolf Theatre through Nov. 13. She’s a grieving mother in 1959 and a self-interested lawyer 50 years later.
It’s a theatrical tour de force that Fitzgerald likens to acting in two different plays the same night.
Susanna Mälkki, the 42-year-old music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 13 with a program of Charles Ives and Richard Strauss that, in every way, placed her among the most important conductors of her generation.
In Part 2 of an interview with Chicago On the Aisle, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director extols Italian training, calls Toscanini his hero and admits impatience with routine effort – and prima donnas.
Donizetti’s bel canto dazzler. 5 stars!
Jessica Dickey’s “The Amish Project,” echoes of a massacre at ATC. 5 stars!
This off-beat CD takes the Russian-born violin virtuoso Viktoria Mullova back to her ancestral roots in the Ukrainian outback, in the traditional music of gypsies and other rural folk. 3 stars
John Musial’s “The Great Fire” flames up at Lookingglass. 2 stars
In an exclusive interview with Chicago On the Aisle, Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti explains his limited enthusiasm for Mahler and reflects on a lifelong struggle with the immensity of Beethoven.
Fischer’s landmark bio of the great symphonist is now in English. 4 stars!
Company to get check for $10,000.
Celebrating the bicentenary of Liszt’s birth, music director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra forged a sublime performance of Liszt’s epic “Faust Symphony.”
“Red” paints a master-apprentice face-off at the Goodman. 5 stars!
Portraying an experienced arms negotiator during the 1980s missile crisis for TimeLine, Brooks manages to be sly, funny and serious — in precisely accented English she learned from an interview with a Russian opera star.
In her Liszt debut CD, Khatia Buniatishvili reveals the heart of an old-school romantic virtuoso. Though she’s still little known in the U.S., the 24-year-old Georgian’s schedule is packed with European concert dates.
Eight operas for 2011-12 include new productions of “Showboat,”Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Handel’s “Rinaldo.” The new season opens Saturday night with Offenbach’s “The Tales of Hoffmann.”
High-voltage effects “In the Next Room” at Victory Gardens. 4 stars
“The Pitmen Painters” at TimeLine is a charming mine of creativity. 4 stars!
Complete Beethoven and Tchaikovsky symphonies are among the many major works in recordings from the 1970s and ‘80s by the CSO’s conductor with the Philadelphia and Philharmonia Orchestras.
The distinctive qualities of Riccardo Muti’s genius as a conductor, above all a lyrical sensibility cultivated through decades in the opera house, will shape his tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony.
In “The Real Thing” at Writers’ Theatre, love’s a moving target. 5 stars!
Ingrid Fliter’s fresh take on three favorite masterpieces. 4 stars!
“A Walk in the Woods” at TimeLine.
Cold War contretemps. 4 stars!
In a chat with high school singers picked for a new Lyric collaboration with the Merit School of Music, the soprano diva Renée Fleming admits she struck out twice competing in the Met auditions — and taking her driver’s exam.