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Fall Culture Guide: The City’s 14 Best Blue-Chip Artists

Break out the bow ties—it’s about to get classy in here. Here’s a primer on the top tickets in Chicago this season.

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Blue-chip artists performances for $55 and under

Photography: (Rorem) Jessica Griffin/AP; (Cabell) Devon Cass; (Zorn) Bernd Thissen/AP; (Denk) Dennis Callahan; (Jones) Carlos J. Ortiz/Chicago Tribune; (Queyras) Marco Borggreve; (Wilson) Fadil Berisha; Photo Illustration: Andrew R. Davis

From left: Ned Rorem, Nicole Cabell, John Zorn, Jeremy Denk, Bill T. Jones, Jean-Guihen Queyras, and Terrence Wilson

In ascending order of median ticket price, ranging from $8 to $149.

Lower-Priced Performances

Ned Rorem
During the dark days of new music, when mid- and late-20th-century contemporary composers holed up in their academies with only numbers to keep them warm, Rorem continued to write exotically beautiful tonal pieces. Known especially for his art songs, he celebrates his 90th birthday with two chamber concerts at Northwestern University, which he attended briefly in the 1940s. Ticket prices top out at a bargain-basement $8 for the Ned@90 event. music.northwestern.edu/concerts. Oct. 10 to 11

Nicole Cabell

When she’s not jetting off to Japan or Russia, this hometown diva usually performs for thousands at the Civic Opera House, Symphony Center, or Ravinia. This month, she sings a recital in Northeastern Illinois University’s Jewel Box Series, relocated from its usual hall to a comparatively capacious auditorium that seats 425. Fittingly for a more intimate performance, Cabell will sing Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Benjamin Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations. $25; neiu.edu. Oct. 18

John Zorn

A pioneer of the New York downtown scene, Zorn turns 60 this fall, and the International Contemporary Ensemble throws him a birthday concert at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The new-classical composer’s style flits from genre to genre, but he’s most famous for pastiches, such as Spillane, which distills noir into patchwork music. From $10 to $28; mcachicago.org/performances. Oct. 26

Jeremy Denk

The classical Renaissance man—he’s a writer for The New Yorker as well as a pianist—takes a break from spiky 20th-century composers such as Charles Ives and György Ligeti to play J. S. Bach’s complete Goldberg Variations in a recital at Symphony Center, participating in a recent mini-trend of Bach completism. From $23 to $39; cso.org. Oct. 13

Bill T. Jones

This towering New York choreographer doesn’t just embrace complexities; he swims in them. Sure, he’s had his share of commercial successes via Broadway (Fela!, Spring Awakening), but in his own avant-garde creations, he tackles such taboo-for-dance topics as race, the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, and terminal illness. Chicago audiences will have a chance to interact with this deep thinker twice: at the Columbia College Dance Center ($35 to $40, October 24 to 26) and in a public lecture at the Chicago Humanities Festival on October 20 ($15). dancecenterchicago.com, chicagohumanities.org

Jean-Guihen Queyras

Considerably less familiar to U.S. audiences than to European ones, the French cellist specializes in the art of the superhumanly long solo. In this appearance, he plays Suite No. 1 by Bach, the Sonata in B Minor by the 20th-century Hungarian Zoltán Kodály, and Cello Suite No. 1 by Benjamin Britten, born 100 years ago next month, the specter floating over the entire fall classical season. From $5 to $35; chicagopresents.uchicago.edu. Oct. 15

Terrence Wilson

The Bronx-born pianist will land here twice, appearing with two orchestras—the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra in Frankfort—that are fronted by young music directors. In Elgin, Wilson opens the ESO’s season ($25 to $60, October 5 to 6) with Gershwin’s Rhapsody No. 2; with the IPO ($35 to $55, October 19), he plays the Chicago-area premiere of the contemporary composer Michael Daugherty’s concerto Deus ex Machina, a depiction of trains, which Wilson premiered and recorded. elginsymphony.org, ipomusic.org

NEXT: Higher-Priced Performances


More in Fall Previews:
Comedy: Nick Offerman | Art: Insiders’ Guide | Art: Michelle Grabner
Theatre: Insiders’ Guide | Theatre: David Cromer | Music: Insiders’ Guide
Music: Numero Group | Music: Top 10 Shows | Classics: Blue-Chip Artists


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