Articles in Classical + Opera
Review: If Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony is a yearning postcard “From the New World,” his Symphony No. 8 in G major is redolent of a composer happily settled on native ground. The Eighth is decidedly of the Old World, as conductor Manfred Honeck and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra so generously demonstrated Jan. 19 at Orchestra Hall. ****
Preview: Barbara Gaines directs actors from Chicago Shakespeare Theater in concerts Jan. 5-14 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, featuring music inspired by the Bard.
The Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen shares a peculiarity of temperament and genius with Gustav Mahler. Like Mahler in his time, Salonen today stands among the most important conductors in the world. And again like his great forebear, Salonen would really rather be composing than be saddled with the responsibilities of music director for any orchestra you could name. Even one that might be looking for someone to succeed James Levine in Boston.
Profile: Anonymous 4, the vocal quartet renowned for its plainchant and medieval music recordings, celebrates 25 seasons with a holiday concert of favorites at Chicago’s Art Institute Dec. 18, and a new release called “Secret Voices.”
Review: For many music lovers, the single word Magnificat probably summons the name Bach, whose setting of this ancient “song of Mary” is doubtless the most famous to modern listeners. But in fact the Magnificat enjoys a long and glorious tradition in music history, notably in the 16th century, and several such Renaissance gems were on display Friday night in an exquisite concert by the Tallis Scholars at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel. *****
Mozart’s classic opera revives. 3 stars.
Lovable but seriously bizarre. 4 stars!
Preview: The Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD broadcasts throughout the U.S. feature a landmark of American minimalism not to miss — ”Satyagraha” by Philip Glass, Nov. 19 and Dec. 7. Here’s a peek.
Preview: U.S. and Chicago premieres abound in the season opener of the new-music series Contempo, at the Harris Theater Tuesday. The concert is a double bill featuring a second set with Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara and her trio.
Review: The French conductor Stéphane Denève made a thrilling debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Thursday night. Denève, who turns 40 this month, is going to be an international force, and his concert with the CSO amply demonstrated why. *****
Tortured soul of a Russian czar. 4 stars!
What a pleasure it was Thursday night to hear Handel’s vivacious “Water Music” in the hands of a conductor who knows it so intimately that he doesn’t require a score – and who understands what charms it possesses that induced a delighted monarch to command repeated performances at its first hearing.
No, this is not an appeal on the back of a cereal box, although it’s definitely got that gee-whiz feeling.Leave it to Hilary Hahn, the nimble-witted concert violinist and Deutsche Grammophon recording artist, to announce her Encore Contest in a whisper on YouTube by candlelight.
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. *****
Review: Is there an optimal year in one’s life to conduct a masterpiece of Haydn for the first time? In the case of Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink and Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation,” the magical number would appear to be 82. ****
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.
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. *****
Review: MusicNOW, the contemporary series of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, began its 2011-12 season alive with the music of ping-pong balls, marimba, country fiddle and eerie vocals. Composers converged from Dublin, Connecticut, Minnesota and London to hear their works performed.
Lyric Opera close-up: We had to know. How is it that soprano Anna Christy is able to zip around like a hovercraft while pinging those sparkling high notes as Olympia, the mechanical doll, in “The Tales of Hoffmann”?
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.
Video: In acceptance speech, he stresses social commitment thru music.
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!
It’s the phone call all struggling musicians hope for — the announcement of a competition prize complete with recording contract. For Wayward Sisters, a Baroque ensemble specializing in 17th-century music, the news lit up lines in Chicago and three other locales where its four members reside.
Mahler conducted the world premiere of Busoni’s “Berceuse élégiaque” at the last public performance of his life, with the New York Philharmonic in 1911. At the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s re-creation of the event, the nine incredible minutes of the “Berceuse” alone are sufficient reason to attend.
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!
Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann” opens Lyric Opera of Chicago season. 4 stars!
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.”
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.”