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The best things to do in Chicago this month,
selected by our culture criticsDecember 2015

Music
Classical, New Music, Opera

Apollo Chorus
The Apollo Chorus  Photo: Courtesy of the Apollo Chorus

APOLLO CHORUS

12/19–20 The addition of soprano soloist Amanda Majeski, who performed in Lyric Opera’s The Passenger this year, to the choir’s annual Messiah performance makes it stand out from the others in town. $30–$60. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. harristheaterchicago.org

CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER

12/17 at 7:30 Some of the finest chamber musicians working today dig into Bach’s beloved Brandenburg Concertos. $35–$125. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. harristheaterchicago.org

CHANTICLEER

12/1–2 The perfect antidote to holiday drivel piped through mall speakers, this sterling Grammy Award–winning vocal ensemble sings deep cuts from across the centuries, as well as the most nuanced traditional favorites you’re likely to hear this season. $39–$61. Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut. cso.org

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

12/3–5 The maestro Muti captains Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8. A relative oddity in relation to the robust 7th and 9th Symphonies, the piece brims with compositional genius and is paired here with the delightful nuggets of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 (“Classical”), Scriabin’s Prometheus, and Ludwig’s own Coriolan Overture. $35–$215.

12/11–13 The CSO plays the soundtrack to the holiday classic Home Alone (see “Holy Cow, Home Alone Is 25!” for a 25th anniversary tribute to the film). $35–$98.

12/17–19 Ever heard a double-bass concerto? If you have, chances are good it was Johann Baptist Vanhal’s Double Bass Concerto in D Major. CSO principal bass Alexander Hanna delivers the licks. You can also see former Ravinia Festival music director James Conlon helm the Vanhal piece, as well as the overture to Mozart’s opera, Lucio Silla, and two less frequently programmed Dvořák shorties, The Wild Dove and The Golden Spinning Wheel. $36–$217.
Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. cso.org

 

RENÉE FLEMING AND PATRICIA BARBER

12/14 at 7:30 Chicago gets first peek at this relatively unusual pairing of top-shelf soprano Fleming and jazz pianist and vocalist Barber before the duo heads to the Kennedy Center. Hear new arrangements of Barber’s inventive art songs, as well as traditional holiday numbers. $35–$125. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. harristheaterchicago.org

FREQUENCY

12/4 at 8:30 Celebrating its 10th anniversary season, Fifth House Ensemble has staked its claim in the Chicago chamber music scene in large part through inspired theming of its concerts. The group’s merry motley of a holiday set list includes conductor Cliff Colnot’s new arrangement of Stravinsky’s The Firebird. $10–$15.

 

12/6 at 8:30 If your exposure to German music is limited to Wagner, Beethoven, and Scorpions, then you need to check out new-music collective Ensemble Dal Niente performing Enno Poppe’s Salz, an astounding work of tonal brain-bending. But the brag-about-it-all-year reason to snag a ticket is the world premiere of new-music hellion Johannes Kreidler’s Stil 1i, for oboe, alto saxophone, viola, piccolo, and melodica. $10–$15.

12/13 at 8:30 Percussionist Doug Perkins and saxophonist Timothy McAllister make a virtuosic team. They’ll perform works by Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Costin Miereanu, Ken Thomson, and Ken Ueno, as well as a new commission by McAllister’s wife, composer Roshanne Etezady. $10–$15.

12/20 at 8:30 Chicago native Carl Testa, a bass player and composer who has collaborated with heavy hitters such as Anthony Braxton, invites a cadre of local clarinetist improvisers, including James Falzone, for this concert. $12–$15.
Constellation, 3111 N. Western. constellation-chicago.com

STEPHEN HOUGH

12/3 at 7:30 If you’re not a fan of Lang Lang–esque pageantry, then you’ll love this histrionics-free British-born pianist, the first classical-music performer to snap up a MacArthur fellowship. Hear Hough’s self-composed Sonata III (Trinitas) alongside some Schubert, Franck, and Liszt. $10–$30. Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall, 70 Arts Circle, Evanston. pickstaiger.org

LAMPO

12/12 at 8 Based in New York, James Hoff intentionally infects his electronic music with computer viruses, playing musical host to these nefarious digital pathogens. Free. Graham Foundation, 4 W. Burton Pl. lampo.org

 

LYRIC OPERA

12/7–1/17 Bel Canto. Don’t miss the world premiere of this opera, based on the novel by Ann Patchett. Written by Jimmy López (music) and Nilo Cruz (libretto), it’s also an opportunity to witness the exceptional talent of soprano Danielle de Niese, who gave a memorable performance in Cleopatra at Lyric in 2007. $20–$319. Civic Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker. lyricopera.org

SPEKTRAL QUARTET

12/3 at 8 French accordionist Julien Labro accompanies the contemporary ensemble in a vibrant mix of Latin jazz and tango composed by Andrés Carrizo. Free. Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon. spektralquartet.com

SYMPHONY CENTER

12/26 at 8 Nobuo Uematsu helms a CSO performance of the soundtrack he scored for the massively popular Final Fantasy video games series. $50–$95. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. cso.org

UCHICAGO PRESENTS

12/20 at 4 Female vocal quartet Anonymous 4 has done a substantial amount of trailblazing, so it is bittersweet to see this hard-working ensemble take a permanent sabbatical. They’ll sing primarily from their holiday repertoire here. $5–$35. Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn. chicagopresents.uchicago.edu

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