Home Entertainment Classical 18 winter classical music highlights for 2018

18 winter classical music highlights for 2018
18 winter classical music highlights for 2018 avatar

Make your Motion!

In this winter of our discontent, we need to remind ourselves of music’s uncanny power to warm hearts and revive winter-depressed spirits. Indeed, there is a wealth of music of every stripe — symphonic and chamber music, opera, song, early music, new music — for classical music fans to anticipate in the coming three months, as presenters roll out some of the season’s choicest wares.

Here are 18 highlights of a busy winter classical music season, listed chronologically:

Winter Chamber Music Festival: The 22nd edition of the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music’s annual celebration of instrumental masterpieces holds seven concerts, the final two a doubleheader in which the brilliant violinist Jennifer Koh will introduce 24 commissioned caprices inspired by the famous two dozen of Paganini. Other concerts by guest artists and Bienen faculty include the Dover, Dudok and Rolston string quartets. Jan. 12-28, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston; $30-$50, $10 for students; 847-467-4000, www.concertsatbienen.org

Chicago Sinfonietta: The orchestra’s 30th anniversary tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. will be devoted to Laura Karpman’s multimedia jazz-symphonic work “Ask Your Mama” (2009), with text drawn from the eponymous 1961 poem by Langston Hughes and solo parts for classical and jazz vocalists (Janai Brugger and Nnenna Freelon, respectively). The performances under Mei-Ann Chen’s direction will mark the work’s Chicago premiere. Jan. 14, Pfeiffer Concert Hall, North Central College, 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville; Jan. 15, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $10-$62; 312-284-1554, www.chicagosinfonietta.org

Ensemble Dal Niente: Although music by American composer Michael Hersch has been widely heard elsewhere, Chicago performances have been rare. Dal Niente will make amends with the Chicago premiere of Hersch’s 2014 instrumental monodrama “On the Threshold of Winter,” based on poems written by Romanian writer Martin Sorescu after he was diagnosed with cancer. Jan. 18 and 20, Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.; $30; 773-871-3000, www.victorygardens.org

Minnesota Orchestra: Music director Osmo Vanska brings his ensemble to Orchestra Hall for its first concert appearance there in 38 years. Their mainstream program holds Sibelius’ tone poem “En Saga,” Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with the commanding pianist Inon Barnatan as soloist. Jan. 28, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $25-$160; 312-294-3000, www.cso.org

Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Four days before taking the orchestra on an East Coast tour, Riccardo Muti will favor the Chicago audience with the world premiere of American composer Jennifer Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto, a CSO co-commission. Doing the solo honors will be trombonists Jay Friedman, Michael Mulcahy and Charles Vernon, and tubist Gene Pokorny. The subscription program also holds works by Stravinsky, Chausson and Britten. Feb. 1-3, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $34-$220; 312-294-3000, www.cso.org

Lyric Opera, Bellini’s “I Puritani”: The bel canto classic, one of the last operas Maria Callas sang in Chicago (in 1955), has been AWOL from the Lyric repertory since the 1991-92 season. Soprano Albina Shagimuratova, whom the company showcased last season as Donizetti’s Lucia, will portray the heroine Elvira opposite tenor Lawrence Brownlee as her lover Arturo. Enrique Mazzola will conduct a production created for the Metropolitan Opera. Eric Einhorn is the revival director. Feb. 4-28, Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $34-$279; 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org

Chicago Opera Theater, “Elizabeth Cree”: COT joins forces with Opera Philadelphia and Hackney Empire to present this world premiere by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, based on Peter Ackroyd’s Victorian-era tale about a woman on trial for her husband’s grisly murder. Geoff McDonald conducts, David Schweizer directs and Katherine Pracht portrays Elizabeth. Feb. 10-18, Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave.; $45-$145; 312-704-8414, www.chicagooperatheater.org

Spektral Quartet: The venturesome Chicago foursome continues its “In Search of Futures Past” cycle of the four string quartets of Arnold Schoenberg with his revolutionary Quartet No. 2, which emancipated dissonant harmony. The wondrous soprano Kiera Duffy joins in a program that also holds works by Anton Webern and Bela Bartok. Feb. 10, Fulton Recital Hall, University of Chicago, 1010 E. 59th St.; free; www.spektralquartet.com

Christoph Pregardien: Chicago will play host to a veritable trifecta of tenors in late February, with the highly praised German lyric tenor leading the parade. A celebrated exponent of German lieder, Pregardien makes his Chicago debut in a recital of Schubert songs, accompanied by pianist Julius Drake. Feb. 18, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th St.; $38, $10 for students; 773-702-2787, chicagopresents.uchicago.edu

Lawrence Brownlee: The American tenor takes time out from Lyric’s “Puritani” to present the Chicago premiere of “Cycles of My Being,” a song cycle by MacArthur Foundation fellows Tyshawn Sorey and Terrance Hayes about the experience of being an African-American male in today’s society. Presented by Lyric Unlimited. Feb. 22, DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place; www.dusablemuseum.org

Piotr Beczala: The acclaimed Polish tenor returns to the Lyric roster for a recital of songs and arias, with the veteran Martin Katz at the piano. Feb. 25, Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $20-$75, 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org/beczala

Lyric Opera, Gounod’s “Faust”: Emmanuel Villaume will conduct a new production of the French Romantic staple, directed by Kevin Newbury and designed by John Frame and Victoria Tzykun. The rising young French tenor Benjamin Bernheim will make his company debut in the title role, with soprano Erin Wall portraying Marguerite (Ana Maria Martinez will assume the soprano role for the final performance). Bass Christian Van Horn will portray Mephistopheles, with baritone Edward Parks debuting as Valentin. March 3-21, Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $34-$279; 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: The formidable French pianist headlines two climactic events in the University of Chicago Presents’ season-long tribute to the great Hungarian modernist Gyorgy Ligeti. Aimard will give a lecture-demonstration March 5 and present a recital March 6 that pairs Ligeti’s brilliant Etudes with Beethoven’s towering “Hammerklavier” Sonata. Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St.; $38, $10 for students; 773-702-2787, chicagopresents.uchicago.edu

Bella Voce Camerata: Bella Voce’s one-voice-per-part ensemble presents Steve Reich’s minimalist masterpiece “Proverb,” a work that reflects his exploration of speech-melody and medieval polyphony. Andrew Lewis directs. March 10, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 939 Hinman Ave., Evanston; $50-$70; 877-755-6277, www.bellavoce.org

“Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein”: Lyric Unlimited presents a centenary salute to the one-and-only Leonard Bernstein. The concert’s focal point will be the one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti,” with Susan Graham and Nathan Gunn as Dinah and Sam, a maritally challenged suburban couple of the 1950s. Also on the bill are Broadway singer Kate Baldwin and the Lyric Opera Orchestra under David Chase. March 10, Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $32-$149; 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org/bernstein

“Fellow Travelers”: Composer Gregory Spears and librettist Greg Pierce’s fast-paced opera, a gay love affair set within the poisonous atmosphere of the McCarthy era in 1950s Washington, D.C., has its Chicago premiere, courtesy of Lyric Unlimited. Director Kevin Newbury’s production, which originated at Cincinnati Opera in 2016, will be conducted by Daniela Candillari. March 17-25, Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave.; $29-$55; 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org/fellowtravelers

Itzhak Perlman and Martha Argerich: A rare collaboration by these instrumental superstars amounts to a chamber music summit. Their program is to include sonatas for violin and piano by Bach and Franck. March 18, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $60-$75; 312-294-3000, www.cso.org

Music of the Baroque, J.S. Bach’s “St. John Passion”: Music director Jane Glover takes charge of this choral masterpiece, one of MOB’s signature works. March 25, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie; March 26, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph; $25-$78; 312-551-1414, www.baroque.org

John von Rhein is a Tribune critic.


Twitter @jvonrhein

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