The Best Classical, New Music, and Opera Concerts in Chicago This September

The Beethoven Festival, Ravinia’s finale, and a strong lineup at the CSO make this a fine month for your ears.

Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago Philharmonic

Scott Speck, Artistic Director of the Chicago Philharmonic, which will premiere John Adams’s oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary at Ravinia September 7.

BAROQUE BAND
9/18, 20, 21 at 7:30 While the BB’s artistic director, Garry Clarke, takes a season-long conducting sabbatical, the subscription concerts will be led by a series of guests, including the violinist Simon Standage on a program that includes Autumn and Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Bach’s violin concerto BWV 1042. $15–$35. Locations: baroqueband.org.

BEETHOVEN FESTIVAL
9/7–15 More sprawling, more dense, and kitchen sinkier than ever, Chicago’s own European village festival in the big city returns for a third year. Organizers promise more than 100 events over the nine-day love-themed affair, including an opening concert in which Matthias Pintscher leads J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion, followed by a masquerade party riffing on Dante.
9/9–10 The pianist Christopher O’Riley and the cellist Matt Haimovitz bring cool-kid energy to performances.
9/12, 14 The Wilco drummer and new-music dabbler Glenn Kotche performs and presents new commissions.
9/14–15 Pintscher leads the festival orchestra in two concerts bejeweled with Beethoven symphonies (Nos. 5 and 6). Other musicians involved: Derek Bermel, JACK Quartet, Rachel Kolly d’Alba, Spektral Quartet, Dal Niente, ICE, and too many others to list here. Side dishes include visual art, literature, fashion, panels, master classes, and cryptozoological taxidermy. (Just kidding about the taxidermy. Maybe next year).
Most performances at Merit School of Music, 38 S Peoria. Details, prices: internationalbeethovenproject.com.

CHICAGO CHAMBER MUSICIANS
9/22–23 at 7:30 Benjamin Britten’s centenary has spurred waves of programming, among them CCM’s exploration of his chamber works, which are less famous than his operas and orchestral music. In the first Britten-themed concert, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal trumpet, Christopher Martin, plays a Britten fanfare, and a quartet performs his Three Divertimenti for Strings. The longest work, however, is by Brahms: his era-defining F-minor piano quintet. $35–$45. 9/22: Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern U, 50 Arts Circle, Evanston. 9/23: Gottlieb Hall, Merit School of Music, 38 S Peoria. chicagochambermusic.org.

CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER Free!
9/11 at 12:15 Fifth House Ensemble’s unorthodox string quartet (violin, viola, cello, bass) plays Puccini, Shostakovich, and the romantic Norwegian Johan Halvorsen.
9/15 at 3 International Contemporary Ensemble premieres a work by George Lewis paired with Beethoven’s Septet in E Flat.
9/18 at 12:15 Masataka Goto, piano.
9/25 at 12:15 The saxophone quartet Project Fusion.
78 E Washington. explorechicago.org.

CHICAGO OPERA THEATER
9/21, 25, 27 at 7:30; 9/29 at 3 Verdi’s Joan of Arc may not be his best opera (Opera Base’s statistics say it’s his 19th most frequently performed) and may not excel in historical accuracy (Joan dies in battle instead of being burned at the stake), but it sports some great tunes and high melodrama. $36–$125. Harris Theater, 205 E Randolph. chicagooperatheater.org.

CHICAGO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
9/29 at 7 Scott Speck inaugurates his artistic directorship at the CPO with Richard Strauss’s orchestral showpiece Don Juan, Tchaikovsky’s one-movement Piano Concerto No. 3 with Kuang-Hao Huang soloing, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. There are rumors of a surprise collaboration—probably Joffrey dancers for Rite. $25–$75. Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern U, 50 Arts Circle, Evanston. chicagophilharmonic.org.

CHICAGO SINFONIETTA
9/14 at 8, 9/15 at 4 The multiculti orchestra’s third season under Mei-Ann Chen hits the ground dancing with a program called eMotion. It’s centered on an orchestral dance mix that syncretizes excerpts from Swan Lake with movements from the composer Florence Price, alongside hip-hop dancers from FootworKINGz and Kuumba Lynx. Khachaturian’s catchy Sabre Dance and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances complete the dancerrific program. $10 for kids, $15–$54. 9/14: Symphony Center, 220 S Michigan. 9/15: Wentz Concert Hall, North Central College, 171 E Chicago, Naperville. chicagosinfonietta.org.

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
9/18 at 7 Free! As the guy who literally wrote the book on Verdi, Riccardo Muti has bedecked the CSO’s schedule for the fall with greenery in honor of the composer’s 200th birthday. Snippets from La forza del destino and the “Va, pensiero” chorus from Nabucco combine with Brahms’s Second Symphony and a new commission in this year’s free concert. Chodl Auditorium, Morton East High School, 2423 S Austin, Cicero.
9/19 at 8 Back at Orchestra Hall, Muti leads Brahms’s Second, an overture by Johann Strauss Jr., and the ballet music from Verdi’s Macbeth, a teaser for the following weekend’s program. $36–$241.
9/21 at 7 The Symphony Ball concert goes very Verdi, revisiting Macbeth, La forza, and “Va, pensiero,” as well as Ernani and I vespri siciliani. $58–$194.
9/28, 10/1, 4 at 7; 10/6 at 3 Critic’s Pick Macbeth receives a concert version treatment from Muti, with European soloists. If you want to get technical about it, the baritone Dario Solari, Muti’s Macbeth, is Uruguayan, but his career has orbited Italy, including opening Bologna’s 2013 opera season with a Macbeth number. $35–$278.
Symphony Center, 220 S Michigan. cso.org.

COLLABORATIVE WORKS FESTIVAL
9/11 at 7 Free! In an unfortunate overlap with the Beethoven Festival, the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago expands its festival to five days in its second year. The soprano Kiera Duffy and the tenor Nicholas Phan perform On This Island, The Heart of the Matter, and Cabaret Songs. Poetry Foundation, 61 W Superior.
9/12 at 7:30 David Daniels, by most accounts the world’s preeminent countertenor, gives a recital with Martin Katz, a pianist so sensitive it seems an insult to call him an accompanist. $20–$40. Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library, 400 S State.
9/15 at 2 Critic’s Pick Britten’s French folk song arrangements share a program with two other B composers—Beethoven’s Welsh folk song settings and Luciano Berio’s terrific modern collection Folk Songs. The new-music chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird participates. $20–$40. Logan Center, U of C, 915 E 60th.
caichicago.org.

CONCERT FOR PEACE Free!
9/11 at 6:30 Fulcrum Point New Music Project remembers 9/11 in its annual Concert for Peace, a tradition that predates the 2001 terrorist attacks. Fulcrum premieres the percussionist Kalyan Pathak’s Shanti Path, a piece that invites the audience to play gongs scattered around the pavilion. Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Washington. fulcrumpoint.org.

FREQUENCY Free!
9/22 at 8:30 Ryan Muncy, Dal Niente’s executive director and saxophonist, holds a release party for his solo album, Hot. Constellation. 3111 N Western. constellation-chicago.com.

LYRIC OPERA Free!
9/7 at 7:15 This year the annual Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park variety show features Ana María Martínez, the leading lady in next season’s Otello, and Rusalka, singing from Madama Butterfly with the tenor James Valenti, as well as Albina Shagimuratova (last year’s Gilda in Rigoletto), losing it in the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor. Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Washington. lyricopera.org.

MUSIC INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO
9/21 at 7:30 The MIC faculty kicks off the season with a night-themed concert that includes Chopin nocturnes and Schoenberg’s luminescent Verklärte Nacht. $10–$30. Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago, Evanston. musicinst.org.

NORTHBROOK SYMPHONY
9/22 at 4 The Austrian Hans Rott, a promising composer encouraged by Mahler and discouraged by Brahms before succumbing to mental illness and dying at the age of 25, wrote one symphony. It receives its Midwestern premiere here, paired with the song cycle Songs of a Wayfarer, by Rott’s champion Mahler. $8–$50. Glenbrook North High School, 2300 Shermer, Northbrook. northbrooksymphony.org.

ORION ENSEMBLE
9/8 at 7; 9/11, 22 at 7:30 The local chamber group plays two Brahms trios, early and late, along with the contemporary composer Paul Schoenfield’s fun, motley Café Music. $10–$26. Locations: orionensemble.org.

RAVINIA
9/1 at 6 Johnny Gandelsman, violin, plays old (Bach and Biber) and newish (Stravinsky, Ysaÿe, Cage, Glass). $10.
9/2 at 6 David Fung, piano. $10.
9/3 at 8 The Knights, a collaboratively run chamber orchestra, grew out of friends reading pieces for fun in their living rooms. Now collaborators with the likes of Dawn Upshaw and Yo-Yo Ma, they return to Ravinia to perform Bach, 20th-century music, and a piece called Chaconne Jam, attributed to the full group. $10–$75.
9/5 at 8 The 5 Browns, five photogenic pianist siblings from Utah, play singly and in combinations up to the full quintet. If you’ve already heard enough of The Rite of Spring this year, maybe the 10-hand piano version will seem novel. $10–$60.
9/6 at 8 Mischa and Cipa Dichter, piano(s). $10–$60.
9/7 at 7:30 Critic’s Pick John Adams’s oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary, a Passion story told from the perspective of Mary Magdalene, sent critics into raptures. In particular, the trio of countertenors serving as narrators and the performance of the mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor as Mary Magdalene won high praise. The original soloists and chorus join forces with the Chicago Philharmonic to give the possible masterpiece its Chicago premiere. $10–$50.
9/8 at 2 The trio KahaneSwensenBrey play piano trios, including the suddenly very popular Café Music. $10.
Lake Cook and Green Bay, Highland Park. ravinia.org.

 

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