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Classical Tue Jul 03 2012
By Elliot Mandel
Fun fact: The 1812 Overture, which you will hear on the Fourth of July, was written by a Russian (Tchaikovsky) to celebrate Russia's defeat of Napoleon at Moscow. The Overture begins with a Russian Orthodox hymn and includes the Russian national anthem, God Save the Czar; the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, is very clearly blown to smithereens. The Overture entered the American patriotic songbook in 1974 as a brilliant publicity stunt by Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, and cannon fire in classical music was here to stay, if only for one performance a year. For other musical offerings in July, see below.
Emerson String Quartet at Ravinia
The Emerson String Quartet is without equal in chamber music: three decades of international touring, over thirty recordings, nine Grammy wins, and a whole mess of other prestigious awards. Catch the Emersons in their only Chicago-area appearance this year in a program that includes the monumental Grosse Fugue in Beethoven's String Quartet, op. 130 (which he wrote when he couldn't hear a darn thing), and stands as one of Herr Ludwig's major achievements. Watch the performance inside Ravinia's intimate and beautifully restored Martin Theatre for $60 or $40, or pack a picnic and camp out on the lawn for $10 to hear the live broadcast. Friday, July 6, 8pm. Ravinia Park, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park.
Vierne Symphonies at Rockefeller Chapel
The organ — not just for church or Dracula. Concert organist Christopher Houlihan will prove this when he plays the six organ symphonies of blind composer Louis Vierne over two evenings. Vierne was the principal organist of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris from 1900 to 1937; he died during his 1,750th performance at that post, but succeeded in expanding the range of organ compositions and the entire concept of the instrument. Houlihan will perform on Rockefeller Chapel's E.M. Skinner Organ, built with the Chapel in 1928. Admission is free. Friday, July 6 and Saturday, July 7, 7:30pm. Rockefeller Chapel, University of Chicago, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Frozen Planet at Grant Park Music Fest
As of this writing, nothing sounds better than going to Antarctica, which is why I am looking forward to Frozen Planet — the soundtrack to the BBC/Discovery Channel documentary about the coldest regions on Earth, performed live by the Grant Park Orchestra and conducted by the composer, George Fenton. The BBC's amazing images from the film will be projected to accompany the music. If you saw the GPO's performance of Planet Earth Live in 2010, you know how spectacular this show can be. Plus, who doesn't love penguins? Admission is free. Wednesday, July 11, 8:30pm. Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park.
The Mendelssohn Octet at Rush Hour
The Mendelssohn Octet is awesome, and you should go see it. Need more convincing? Two renowned ensembles — the Euclid and the Lincoln string quartets — team up in Felix Mendelssohn's chamber work for strings on steroids. More than pretty background listening, the Octet is music to be seen live. Mendelssohn weaves layers of melody through eight parts, creating some of the richest string textures of any chamber piece; the last movement is an exhilarating ride that crackles with energy. The Euclid Quartet's players hail from the U.S., Britain, China, and Venezuela, and the Lincoln Quartet is comprised of current and former Chicago Symphony Orchestra members. Really, go see it. Admission is free. Tuesday, July 17, 5:45pm; free reception at 5:15pm. St. James Cathedral, Wabash and Huron, Chicago.
Denis Matsuev at Ravinia
Denis Matsuev is Russia's biggest piano star, possessing the chops to back up his international fame. His sound rings through the hall, thunderous but with astonishing clarity. Catch this all-Russian recital that includes music by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, and selections from Stravinsky's early 20th-century ballet, Petrushka, about everyone's favorite jealous ghost-puppet. Watch the performance inside the Martin Theatre for $60 or $40, or hear the live broadcast on the lawn for $10 to hear the live broadcast. Monday, July 30, 8pm. Ravinia Park, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park.
Programs, artists, and prices subject to change. Tickets subject to availability.
Hear a great concert recently? Have a tip on an upcoming show? Talk about it in the comments.
About the author: Elliot Mandel plays cello, attends lots of concerts, writes reviews, takes pictures, and loves sports. He played the 1812 Overture eight years ago and still can't get it out of his head.