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

Classical, New Music, Opera

‘Bel Canto’
Bel Canto Photo: Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune


1/15–16, 20 at 7:30 The 18th-century sonically warring factions of the Academy of Ancient Music and the Apollo Musical Society are the inspiration behind this concert, featuring the work of Handel (an Academy acolyte) and Maurice Greene (founder of the rival Apollo), among other period-appropriate composers. $17–$39. 1/15: Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago, Evanston. 1/16: Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn. 1/20: Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. baroqueband.org


1/18 at 7:30 The orchestra’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. features bassist Victor Wooten and the Illinois premiere of his piece The Bass Whisperer. The concert also includes the gospel revelries of the Apostolic Church of God’s sanctuary choir. $10–$60. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. chicagosinfonietta.org


1/7–1/9 Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben are well-trodden entries in the CSO’s repertoire, but when German-Canadian cello phenom Johannes Moser tackles Hadyn’s Concerto in C Major, it should sound completely new. $34–$221.
1/9 at 10 and 11:45 a.m. The players collaborate with Natya Dance Theatre and storyteller Krithika Rajagopalan for a heartwarming fable about adversaries—elephants and mice—discovering the power of friendship and allegiance. $17.
1/24 at 3 There are few more colossal names in the piano world than that of Menahem Pressler, who has been excelling at the keys for almost 60 years. This is no slouch of a program either, with Kurtág’s Impromptu al Ongarese . . . to Menahem Pressler and Debussy’s Estampes on the bill, alongside favorites from Schubert, Mozart, and, of course, Chopin. $21–$81.
Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan. cso.org


1/10 at 3 Catch a fetching program of works by Victoria Bond, Bartók, Shostakovich, and Debussy, played by some of the CSO’s finest at this monthly series in a majestic South Side institution. Reservation required. Free. South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore. cso.org


1/15 at 7:30 The soprano has exploded in popularity in recent years, and the Beyond the Aria series offers a unique opportunity to see this vocal celebrity up close in a cabaret setting. If you’re a fan of Lyric Opera’s Bel Canto (see “Lyric Opera”), you’ll be excited to see de Niese’s costar Anthony Roth Costanzo also on the marquee, along with bass Bradley Smoak and pianist Craig Terry. $40. Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. harristheaterchicago.org


1/23 at 8:30 The contemporary group often commissions new work, as is the case here with the guitar-harp duo Jesse Langen and Ben Melsky. The roster of composers penning new tunes for the event features sound manipulators Drew Baker, Fred Gifford, Tomás Gueglio, and Kasia Szczech. $15–$20. Elastic Arts, 3429 W. Diversey. dalniente.com


1/3 at 8:30 Mabel Kwan is a fantastic pianist, a skill that will no doubt be on display for her forthcoming solo album. The list of composers for this concert includes Santiago Diez-Fischer, Mauricio Pauly, Fredrick Gifford, and Steven Takasugi, whose Die Klavierübung, Erster Satz is the highlight. $10–$15.
1/10 at 8 Primarily known for his excellent work running the new-music label New Focus Recordings, Dan Lippel is also a formidable guitarist. He strums an eclectic repertoire, including Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint and John Link’s Like Minds. $10.
1/24 at 8:30 The Morton Feldman Chamber Players perform one of the late composer’s shortest works, Trio, for violin, cello, and piano (1980). It clocks in at a mere one and a half hours, far removed from his five-hour String Quartet No. 2. $10–$12.
Constellation, 3111 N. Western. constellation-chicago.com


1/6 at 7:30 An all-Tchaikovsky program isn’t exactly an enticement, but with legendary violinist-conductor Itzhak Perlman at the helm of the Juilliard Orchestra, it is certainly worth the price of admission to see if he and the next generation of classical musicians can pull off the impossible: making the Rococo Variations interesting. $35–$125.
1/13 at 7:30 Pinchas Zukerman, another famed-violinist-turned-conductor, guides the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra through Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, and Beethoven’s perilous violin concerto. $35–$125.
1/25 at 7:30 Music of the Baroque plays Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”), Handel’s Water Music Suite No. 1, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 (“Farewell”). $27–$63.
1/29 at 7:30 Little-known fact: The Harris Theater is an avid commissioner of new work, as is the case with My Lai, a piece by composer Jonathan Berger for the Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert, and Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ. This multimedia event explores the complexities of the Vietnam War through the POV of a U.S. helicopter pilot. $35–$125
205 E. Randolph. harristheaterchicago.org


1/22 at 7:30 The quartet, with new violist Ben Weber, teams up with Northeastern Illinois University faculty pianist Susan Tang in the first half of the program for Schumann’s sumptuous Piano Quintet in E-flat Major (Op. 44). NEIU faculty member and baritone Robert Heitzinger joins the second half for a song cycle by Réjean Coallier, set to the poems of Sylvain Garneau. $17–$25. Steinberg Fine Arts Center, 5500 N. St. Louis. kontrasquartet.com


1/23–2/12 Nabucco. The titular king in Giuseppe Verdi’s landmark drama is as grand as they come. Listen for bass Dmitry Belosselskiy in the role of Zaccaria. His is a voice that can instigate seismic events. $17–$299.


Through 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 as Cleopatra at Lyric in 2007. $20–$319.
Civic Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker. lyricopera.org


1/29 at 8 The group unveils its fourth full-length album, Serious Business. The record fuses classical music and comedy, including Josef Haydn’s string quartet “The Joke” and new commissions from New York oboist Sky Macklay and local composers Dave Reminick and Chris Fisher-Lochhead. $20. Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse. spektralquartet.com


1/17 at 3 Pacifica Quartet’s Shostakovich cycle, captured on Cedille Records, remains one of the finest recordings to come out of Chicago in recent years. Get a taste as the group performs Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Minor (Op. 138) in this concert. Bonus: Pacifica will also play Schnittke’s woefully underrated String Quartet No. 3. $5–$30. Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th.
1/22 at 7:30 New York Philharmonic principal clarinetist Anthony McGill (and recent Pacifica Quartet collaborator) arrives packing a primo ensemble culled from the esteemed Marlboro Music Festival for an enchantingly varied program, including Beethoven, Brahms, and, most notably, a clarinet quintet by Krzysztof Penderecki. $5–$35.
Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th. chicagopresents.uchicago.edu


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