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Six Summer Classical Music Itineraries

A summer concert agenda for every kind of listener.

Summer concerts at Jay Pritzker Pavilion   Photo: Christopher Neseman

Within the niche of classical-music fandom, fans tend to get even nichier, chasing after their favorite composers, soloists, genres, or witty uses of the German augmented sixth chord. In the summer, though, they can’t depend on their Chicago Symphony Orchestra subscription or bookmarks of favorite ensembles’ websites to feed their specific needs. Summer hiatus means scouring schedules to assemble an itinerary. We decided to do the work for you:

For the Beethoven fanatic

6/17 at 6:30, 6/18 at 7:30 Start a Beethoven summer at the beginning, with Symphony No. 1. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

7/16 at 7:30 Sir Andrew Davis, normally seen jack-in-the-boxing out of Lyric’s pit, leads the CSO in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, in a program that also includes Ralph Vaughan Williams’s ravishing Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Elgar’s cello concerto with Alisa Weilerstein. Ravinia. $10–$90. ravinia.org

8/18, 20, 22 at 6 Jonathan Biss embarks on a mission to play all 32 piano sonatas over three years. Ravinia. $10 per concert. ravinia.org

8/20 at 7:30 Itzhak Perlman fiddles with the violin concerto, and the CSO plays the Symphony No. 7. Ravinia. $10–$100. ravinia.org

8/26 at 6, 8/27–28 at 1 and 6 The Pacifica Quartet, long in residence at the University of Chicago, straps on its FitBits and plays all 16 Beethoven string quartets in the space of 50 hours. In an interesting numerical coincidence, you could see it all for $50. Ravinia. $10 per concert. ravinia.org

Also note: 8/5 at 8 Paul Lewis and the CSO play Piano Concerto No. 4. Ravinia. $10–$75. 8/16 at 6 Adolfo Gutiérrez Arenas plays the five cello sonatas. Ravinia. $10.

For the opera lover

6/11 at 2 Haymarket Opera runs a summer course, and it climaxes with an abridged version of Monteverdi’s trillerific The Coronation of Poppea. Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University. Free. haymarketopera.org

7/2–18 Chicago Folks Operetta makes its annual appearance out of nowhere with The Cousin from Nowhere, a comic operetta by Edward Künneke. Stage 773. $25–$40. chicagofolksoperetta.org

7/27 at 6:30 The Lyric Opera’s training program lends a tenor (and several other soloists) to blow the dust off the first act of Of Mice and Men, by the melodic 20th-century composer Carlisle Floyd, at the Grant Park Music Festival. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

8/19 at 6:30, 8/20 at 7:30 The Grant Park Music Festival closes like a bat into hell with Hector Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, a weird and wooly quasi-opera with chorus and soloists. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

8/20 at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., 8/21 at 2 at 4 Lyric surfaces for a weekend during its long summer break to premiere a kids’ opera, Jason and the Argonauts, targeted at ages 7 to 12. Just guessing they’re eliding the part where Medea murders Jason’s wife and father-in-law. Vittum Theater. Free. lyricopera.org

For the new-music enthusiast

6/10 at 7:30 Percussionists manipulate dramatically lit bowls of water in the Water Passion After St. Matthew, by the Chinese composer Tan Dun of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame. Ravinia. $10–$60. ravinia.org

6/11 from 6 to 11 Ben Vida’s Reducing the Tempo to Zero lasts a hyper-Feldmanian five hours, but you can come and go as you please. Hopefully bathroom breaks are built in for the performers. Lampo at the Graham Foundation. Free. lampo.org

7/20 at 6:30 The conductor Marin Alsop leads a program with no sop to the new-music averse. Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul opens the program, and Philip Glass’s Life: A Journey Through Time, with National Geographic photography as backdrop, closes it. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

8/5 at 6:30, 8/6 at 7:30 The Grant Park Music Festival premieres new work by the American composer Michael Gandolfi, more for his geometrically expanding catalog of pieces about the Garden of Cosmic Speculation. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

8/21 at 6 The eight-member vocal group Roomful of Teeth not only makes the argument that new music can appeal to wide audiences, it gives it teeth. Ravinia. $10. ravinia.org

Also note: 7/12 at 8 Wynton Marsalis’s violin concerto gets its American premiere. Ravinia. $15–$75. 7/27 at 6:30 Of Mice and Men, see above. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free.

For the choral fan

6/15 at 8:30 The Singers, the Minnesota-based choir that inherited the legacy of the legendary Dale Warland Singers, bellows out Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, the a cappella religious work sometimes called Vespers. Ravinia. $10–$60. ravinia.org

6/17 at 6:30, 6/18 at 7:30 The neoclassical composer Michael Torke excerpts the Book of Proverbs for chorus and orchestra in clangy, accessible treatments. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

7/1 at 6:30, 7/2 at 7:30 Bohuslav Martinů may huddle in the C-list of classical-composer fame, but he knew how to pick an epic text. The Epic of Gilgamesh makes an oratorio out of humanity’s oldest known story. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

7/19 at 7:30 The all-male, falsetto-incorporating Bay Area choir Chanticleer howls at the moon in a typically contemporary-heavy, lunar-themed program. Ravinia. $10–$60. ravinia.org

7/24 at 3, 7/26 at 7 The Grant Park Chorus takes a Shakespeare-themed a cappella concert out of its eponymous park. 7/24: Columbus Park Refectory. 7/26: South Shore Cultural Center. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

Also note: 6/17–18 Michael Torke’s Book of Proverbs, above. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. 8/21 at 6 Roomful of Teeth, above. Ravinia. $10.

For the chamber music devotee

6/8–11 The North Shore Chamber Music Festival this year visits the Dvořák A Major Piano Quintet, the Schumann C Major String Quintet, and Max Bruch’s B-flat Octet for Strings. Village Presbyterian Church, Northbrook. $15–$45 per concert, $30–$110 fest pass. nscmf.org

6/21 at 5:45 The violinist Augustin Hadelich, a globetrotting soloist and now Grammy winner, plays Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky at a concert that works double duty in the Rush Hour Concert Series and as the closer for Make Music Chicago. St. James Cathedral. Free. rushhour.org

6/28 at 5:45 Third Coast Percussion, our local whackers and bangers, play a program entirely of pieces composed by its members. St. James Cathedral. Free. rushhour.org

7/5 at 7:30 The Emerson Quartet, one of the world’s top string quartets almost since strings were discovered, bows through all six quartets in the Op. 76 of Haydn, the father of the form. Ravinia. $10–$60. ravinia.org

7/21 at 7:30 The baritone Matthias Goerne, now a Ravinia regular, belts out all Schumann. Dichterliebe and Liederkreis, Schumann’s two slam-dunks for a baritone, both make the show, and so does Frauenliebe und -leben, normally sung by a woman. (Goerne will sing in his own octave.) Ravinia. $10–$60. ravinia.org

Also note: 6/27 at 7:30 The Juilliard String Quartet welcomes its new cellist. Ravinia. $10–$60. 7/12 at 5:45 Spektral Quartet and the pianist Daniel Schlosberg do the Schumann Piano Quintet. St. James Cathedral. Free.

For the sucker for the grand symphonic gesture

6/24 at 6:30, 6/25 at 7:30 The Grant Park Orchestra brings its giant sledgehammer out of storage for Mahler’s Symphony No. 6. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

7/15 at 6:30, 7/16 at 7:30 An orchestra that’s really clicking along can finish Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in under an hour. That’s short by Brucknerian standards. Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Free. grantparkmusicfestival.org

7/23 at 7 Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”) makes the chorus wait for an hour before it sings. James Levine leads it here, as he did at his Ravinia debut 45 years ago. Ravinia. $15–$120. ravinia.org

8/2 at 8 Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) encompasses the already-multifarious America of the Czech’s late 19th-century sojourn here into nearly an hour of tune-stuffed, high-drama music. Ravinia. $10–$75. ravinia.org

8/4 at 7:30 The 1812 Overture may not rival those other orchestral mastodons in length, but it does have cannons. The Chicago Sinfonietta plays it and American-themed pieces. Cantigny Park, Wheaton. Free. chicagosinfonietta.org

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