Five Classical Music Names to Watch in 2014

The soprano, choir, ensemble, conductor, and label to keep your cultural eye on.

Amanda Majeski   Daria Acosta

In a field that ranges from church-basement concerts to opulent opera houses, classical music has a lot of levels of buzz to keep track of—the debuts, the folks hitting it big, and the ones hitting it bigger.

As 2014 comes into focus, it looks like it’ll be a year of a lot of buzz in classical music. Keep your eye on these five names.

Amanda Majeski, the statuesque soprano

For an article on the mezzo-soprano Cecelia Hall two years ago, Chicago Opera Theater’s outgoing general director Brian Dickie listed singers in whom he saw an “extrabright spark of individuality.” In the article, I pulled the one-of-a-kind mezzo Frederica von Stade, the burning-bright soprano Danielle de Niese, and Hall off his list.

But he also named the soprano Amanda Majeski, a statuesque blonde with a warm coloratura voice. The Gurnee native and graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric sang Vitellia in Mozart’s La Clemenza de Tito with COT in 2009, a role she reprises for the Lyric in March just after singing a recital at Carnegie Hall.. A climb that quick usually means high-magnitude stardom.

Parlour Tapes, the funky new music label

New music in Chicago has spawned new ensembles like wild mint over the past few years, and last year a new-music recording label sprouted up: Parlour Tapes.

Run by a quirky-fun collective of four local composers and performers, the label released its first two albums in late 2013, one by the string quartet Spektral Quartet and one called And, in which Chicago musicians collaborated with non-Chicago musicians on new work. Both albums were released digitally and on cassette tape, which apparently the kids are listening to again, despite its tendency to distort and unravel. 

Bella Voce Camerata, the charming chamber choir

The chamber choir Bella Voce, usually comprising about 20 singers, has performed twice with a smaller, one-per-part ensemble in the past, but always under Bella Voce’s banner. In March, the even-smaller-chamber group gets an official name for an official debut featuring music by the baroque composer Dieterich Buxtehude alongside the contemporary composer David Lang’s spreading-like-wildfire The Little Match Girl Passion, in the piece’s third local performance in the space of a year.

CUBE, the revitalized veteran new music ensemble

Unlike CUBE’s old model of organizing concerts around submitted scores, CUBE’s new artistic director Hope Littwin and her general director, Kroydell Galima, plan to collaborate closely with artists from the worlds of theatre, dance, literature, and others in developing wholly new and multiply authored works.

The new CUBE’s first big project hits in March, with a presentation of La Tragédie de Carmen, a stripped-down, 90-minute version of Bizet’s Carmen, at the Den Theatre. Also in the offing are The Intimacy Project, a theatre-music-dance exploration of the titular concept, and a punk-rock version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Jaap van Zweden, the commanding conductor

Not exactly an unknown, either here or globally, the conductor Jaap van Zweden breaks out his biggest Chicago project yet in May and June, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Truth to Power project.

Van Zweden, the music director of the Dallas Symphony and the former wunderkind concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, leads four programs in three weeks filled with the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, and Benjamin Britten. Everyone expects Riccardo Muti to renew his music directorship with the CSO as his contract winds down, but a big, ambitious project like van Zweden’s fuels the rumors flitting around that once Muti steps down, van Zweden is next in line.

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