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Feature Tue Oct 11 2011
By Elliot Mandel
I love October in Chicago: pumpkin ale on tap, no more Cubs games jamming up the Red Line, and classical music returns to stages all over the city. The classical scene in Chicago covers the range of the genre, from the Baroque style of the 1600s to brand new pieces performed on laptops; all of this music can be heard in intimate venues or grand concert halls--and all of it is affordable (and sometimes free). If you love the music like I do, if you've always wanted to attend a performance but needed some direction, or if you just want to know what a harpsichord sounds like, the following is a short list of my recommendations for the month. If you have other suggestions, please add them in the comments.
Dame Emma Kirkby, soprano
Chicagoans embraced Baroque Band immediately when it burst onto the scene in 2007. Since then, the Baroque and early music specialists have programmed imaginative concerts, and dazzled audiences with their sublime interpretations. Renowned soprano Dame Emma Kirkby joins the Band in songs by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Dieterich Buxtehude, John Christopher Smith, and Antonio Vivaldi. Tickets for all performances are $35, $30 for seniors, $15 for students. October 12, Grainger Ballroom, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. October 14, Nichols Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave, Evanston. October 15, Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn Ave, Chicago. All concerts start at 7:30pm.
Comprised of some of the best musicians from Chicago's large ensembles and university faculties, the venerable Chicago Chamber Musicians will perform an all-French program that begins with a rare chance to hear Camille Saint-Saëns' bassoon sonata. CCM also performs Maurice Ravel's Piano Trio, a piece of wandering and vast musical scenes, and Olivier Messiaen's final and most famous work, Quartet for the End of Time, composed while imprisoned by the Germans in World War II--"the most ethereally beautiful music of the twentieth century," according to The New Yorker's Alex Ross. Tickets are $25 - $40, $10 for students. October 16, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston. October 17, Gottlieb Concert Hall, 38 S. Peoria St., Chicago. Both concerts begin at 7:30pm.
In nearly every other city, the Civic Orchestra would be the best ensemble in town. As the CSO's training orchestra, the Civic provides soon-to-be pros an opportunity to learn the ropes; Chicago is lucky to have a professional-grade orchestra regularly perform for free. Evoking the folk music traditions of the Rhine region of Germany, Robert Schumann's Third Symphony is full of life and energy, a perfect fit for the Civic. Admission is free but tickets are required (a $2 service fee per ticket will be charged). Get tickets in advance--they go fast; doors open about an hour before start time. October 17, 8pm, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.
With their performance of Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony still echoing from the final performances of last season, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presents the Austrian composer's earlier symphonies this year in honor of the 100th anniversary of his death. Former Principal Conductor, and a favorite of audience and orchestra alike, Bernard Haitink returns to Orchestra Hall to join the CSO and soprano Klara Ek in Mahler's transcendent Fourth Symphony. Violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann performs Alban Berg's Violin Concerto, a requiem for the daughter of Alma Mahler, and the composer's final completed work. Tickets start at $32. October 20, 21, 22, 8pm. Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.
Last year's performances of all of Dmitri Shostakovich's quartets by the Pacifica garnered wide acclaim; in the end, tickets were hard to come by. The University of Chicago's artists-in-residence present this program of Russian and Soviet music that includes Alfred Schnittke's tension-filled Quartet No. 3, Nikolai Myaskovsky's final work and prayer-like Quartet No. 13, and Shostakovich's wrenching Quartet No. 3. The Pacifica is one of Chicago's chamber music treasures. Tickets are $25, $5 for students. October 30, 3pm., Mandel Hall (no relation to the author), 1131 E. 57th St., Chicago.
About the author: Elliot Mandel plays cello, attends lots of concerts, writes reviews, takes pictures, and loves sports; his favorite composers are Bach and Shostakovich.