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The best things to do in Chicago this month,
selected by our culture criticsFebruary 2016

Music
Classical, New Music, Opera

La Voix Humaine
Patricia Racette in La Voix Humaine Photo: Ken Howard

AVALON STRING QUARTET

2/7 at 2 This deft foursome performs the Soviet composer Mieczysław Weinberg’s String Quartet No. 7 along with Leoš Janáček’s No. 2 (“Intimate Letters”). Free with museum admission. Fullerton Hall, Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan. avalonquartet.com

CHICAGO A CAPPELLA

2/13 at 8, 2/14 at 4, 2/20 at 8, 2/21 at 4 Commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the pristine vocal ensemble strings together jewels by the likes of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (Four Shakespeare Songs) in alternation with sonnets and soliloquies by Chicago Shakespeare Theater actors. $12–$38. Various locations. chicagoacappella.org

CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER

2/10 at 12:15 The cellist Jay Campbell, a new-music proponent with close ties to the maverick composer John Zorn, plays as part of the weekly Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts. Free. 78 E. Washington. choosechicago.com

CHICAGO OPERA THEATER

2/6 at 7:30, 2/14 at 3 Star soprano Patricia Racette (Lyric’s most recent Butterfly) plays the jilted mistress in Francis Poulenc’s monologue opera La Voix Humaine. The other half of the bill (without Racette), Puccini’s comedy Gianni Schicchi, includes one of opera’s greatest hits, the soprano aria “O Mio Babbino Caro.” $15–$125. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. chicagooperatheater.org

CHICAGO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

2/7 at 2 The orchestra plays both Vivaldi’s and Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons on a program with Last Round, a work by the contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov. The Golijov also features original choreography, and a bandoneon (a relative of the accordion) player will perform in the lobby. $10–$75. Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern U., 50 Arts Circle, Evanston. chicagophilharmonic.org

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

2/5–6 at 8 The alpha and omega of Shostakovich’s symphonic output, Nos. 1 and 15, stare each other down on a single program. The First, a contender for the best student piece ever, shows off a 19-year-old’s precocity. The Fifteenth, written at age 65, pulls references from the composer’s musically rich life. $30–$217.
2/11–13 at 8, 2/16 at 7:30 Riccardo Muti launches his winter residency with a centuries-hopping program, including Mozart’s 18th-century clarinet concerto (with CSO principal Stephen Williamson soloing), Tchaikovsky’s lovely 19th-century Serenade for Strings, György Ligeti’s 20th-century Ramifications, and the world premiere of Lightenings by Elizabeth Ogonek, one of the CSO’s new composers-in-residence. $36–$255.
2/18 at 8, 2/19 at 1:30, 2/20 at 8 Muti conducts three 20th-century Italian works, two by Ottorino Respighi, a pet interest of the conductor, and Alfredo Casella’s angular Symphony No. 3, a CSO commission from 1941. $34–$221.
2/24 at 6:30 Attendees of this installment of Afterwork Masterworks get a wine reception and Q&A with the conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, just off the podium from leading a Beethoven overture, Lutosławski’s Symphony No. 3, and his own Foreign Bodies. $27–$260.

 

2/25 at 8, 2/26 at 1:30, 2/27 at 8, 3/1 at 7:30 The always charismatic and playful Yo-Yo Ma performs Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. $36–$260. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. cso.org

COLLABORATIVE ARTS INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO

2/27 at 3 The city’s leaders of lieder present a recital by tenor and Chicago native Paul Appleby, rustling up some of the usual animals, such as Schumann and Wolf, in a setting more intimate than New Yorkers will get when he sings at Carnegie next month. $15–$35. Logan Center, U. of C., 915 E. 60th. caichicago.org

FREQUENCY FESTIVAL

2/23–28 Supplementing its ongoing new-music series, this fest features a week full of sonic experimentation by notable Chicago new-music stalwarts. Highlights include Fonema Consort (2/24 at U. of C.’s Bond Chapel), the MacArthur “genius” and flutist Claire Chase (2/27), and Ensemble Dal Niente mounting Hard Music, Hard Liquor, a concert highlighting virtuosic solo music (2/28). Free–$15. Constellation, 3111 N. Western. constellation-chicago.com

HANDEL WEEK FESTIVAL

2/14 at 3, 2/20 at 7:30, 3/6 at 3 Modeled after Evanston’s annual Bach Week Festival, this celebration consists of three concerts from Handel’s long catalog, including Dixit Dominus, cabaret-style works for singers, violins, and the opera Giulio Cesare. $35–$45; $100 fest pass. Grace Episcopal Church, 924 Lake, Oak Park. handelweek.com

HARRIS THEATER

2/9 at 7:30 The mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe made her name in the opera world for her ability to sing both Handel and Wagner. Here, she switches gears, performing American parlor songs from the era when sheet music was king. $35–$125.
2/16 at 7:30 The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s coartistic directors (and spouses), the pianist Wu Han and the cellist David Finckel, team up with Finckel’s former Emerson String Quartet colleague Philip Setzer for early Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Dvořák’s “Dumky” Trio. $25–$55.
2/18 at 7:30 The Knights, a Brooklyn-based group, visit with the affable violinist Gil Shaham in tow. The Knights play Beethoven’s “Eroica,” and Shaham solos on Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, but first up is Jean-Féry Rebel’s tremendous Les Élémens, which opens with a discord that belies the baroque propriety that follows. $35–$125.
Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. harristheaterchicago.org

ILLINOIS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

2/20 at 8 In his final season here, David Danzmayr leads the south suburban orchestra in Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 (the “Great C Major”), Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2—with the exciting Stefan Jackiw soloing—and Heiras Schwester, a piece by Danzmayr’s father, Wolfgang. $5–$55. Lincoln-Way North Performing Arts Center, 19900 S. Harlem, Frankfort. ipomusic.org

LYRIC OPERA

2/8–3/13 Der Rosenkavalier. Richard Strauss’s beloved opera dramatizes the complications that ensue when a young lady gets a marriage proposal but falls in love with the messenger. The role of Octavian is split between Sophie Koch and Alice Coote—you can’t go wrong with either—and the superb Amanda Majeski plays the Marschallin. $17–$329.
2/22–3/19 Romeo and Juliet. In a perfect marriage of the Romantic era to romantic subject, Charles Gounod hews closely to Shakespeare’s story in this opera. The creamy-voiced soprano Susanna Phillips sings Juliet, and Joseph Calleja and Eric Cutler share the Romeo role. $20–$329.
2/26 at 7:30 Silver fox Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a Russian baritone with a voice like an oak tree, sings a recital. $49–$199.
Through 2/12 Nabucco. The scheming Abigaille in Verdi’s Nabucco befits the passionate soprano Tatiana Serjan, who seethed evil as Lady Macbeth in Riccardo Muti’s concert version of Verdi’s Macbeth. Now she gets to play the villain with all the pomp, sharing a stage with the excellent baritone Željko Lučić in the title role. $20–$329.
Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker. lyricopera.org

MUSIC INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO

2/6 at 7:30 Preconservatory students from the institute’s academy play Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Mozart’s Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581, with the CSO’s principal clarinetist, Stephen Williamson. $10–$30. Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago, Evanston. musicinst.org

MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE

2/28–29 The orchestra performs a set of three Haydn concerto-grosso-style symphonies (Nos. 6 to 8), and Mozart’s Serenata Notturna (Nocturnal Serenade) brings down the curtain. $27–$75. 2/28: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie, Skokie. 2/29: Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. baroque.org

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

2/7 at 7:30 Closing the 20th season of the Winter Chamber Music Festival, the violinist Pinchas Zukerman and his namesake trio play two stalwarts of the piano-trio repertoire, Dvořák’s “Dumky” and Beethoven’s “Archduke.” $10–$35. Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle, Evanston.
2/14 at 5 Several student musicians celebrate composer Luciano Berio’s 90th birthday by playing some of his Sequenzas. McClintock Choral and Recital Room, Ryan Center, 70 Arts Circle, Evanston. Free.
2/25–27 at 7:30, 2/28 at 3 A bargain for opera lovers, the school’s opera program mounts The Marriage of Figaro. $8–$18.
Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston. events.music.northwestern.edu

SYMPHONY CENTER

2/14 at 3 András Schiff reaches the finale of his three-concert journey through the final piano sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. $35–$102.
2/28 at 3 Although she’s made a practice of conducting the CSO from the piano bench in most recent seasons, the precise, placid Mitsuko Uchida appears one afternoon only this season, in chamber performances of Schumann and her specialty, Mozart. $40–$116.
2/29 at 8 The Civic Orchestra, the CSO’s training ensemble, plays Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9, alongside the local composer Augusta Read Thomas’s year-old Goddess of the Dawn (A Ballet for Orchestra).
Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. cso.org

UCHICAGO PRESENTS

2/5 at 7:30 Third Coast Percussion bangs out a crowd-pleasing program that includes Thierry De Mey’s rhythmic Table Music, the Chicago premiere of Donnacha Dennehy’s drumming piece Surface Tension, and the minimalist master Steve Reich’s Sextet. $5–$25. International House, U. of C., 1414 E. 59th.

 

2/19 at 7:30 At this concert of Philip Glass’s complete piano etudes, the culmination of a multiday event at his alma mater, the master of minimalism himself will play, along with other sympathetic pianists from the classical and jazz worlds. $5–$35. Mandel Hall, U. of C., 1131 E. 57th.

2/29 at 7:30 The new-music group Contempo colors itself European for a five-work concert, welcoming the intense soprano and composer Agata Zubel to perform her own Not I. $5–$25. Logan Center, U. of C., 915 E. 60th. chicagopresents.uchicago.edu

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