Summer classical music preview

By M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic

Summer is almost here and there are lots of great classical music events scheduled in and around Chicago for the warmest months. This preview takes a quick peek at just a smattering of the many choices you’ll have this year to hear quality music, much of it in the great outdoors.

Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra kick off the Grant Park Music Festival on Wed. Jun. 14 with Vadim Gluzman as the soloist for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Also on the program: Alfén’s “Festival Overture,” and Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture.”

The Grant Park Chorus returns to the South Shore Cultural Center for a performance of Rachmaninov’s Vespers (All Night Vigil) on Thurs., Jul. 13.

The Canadian Brass join the Grant Park Orchestra for an evening of symphonic suites, blues and the Beatles, in honor of Canada’s sesquicentennial (Jul. 1). Christopher Bell conducts patriotic favorites for the annual Independence Day concert (Jul. 4). Stephen Hough is the soloist for a concert featuring the music of Brahms and Kodály (Jul. 26). The festival closes with two performances of Beethoven’s Ninth (Aug. 18 and 19).

For more information on these free concerts, visit grantparkmusicfestival.com.

The Ravinia Music Festival is, among other things, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The CSO has lots of interesting programs coming up at Ravinia this year, including Yuja Wang playing the Brahms First Concerto (Jul. 11), and Joshua Bell playing the “Scottish Fantasy” (Jul. 12).

There is a Tchaikovsky night, which features the 1812 Overture replete with cannons (Jul. 16). Susanna Mälkki will conduct back-to-back concerts of Beethoven and Sibelius. First, the “Eroica ” and the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Vadim Repin (Jul. 20), and then the Sibelius Second Symphony and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Kirill Gerstein (Jul. 21).

The annual Gala Benefit Evening will have music of Dvorák and Rachmaninov with conductor Christopher Eschenbach and pianist Lang Lang (Jul. 29).

Pinchas Zuckerman plays and conducts (Aug. 3), James Levine conducts “The Creation ” by Haydn (Aug. 8.), and there will be a tribute to Ira Gershwin (Aug. 13).

Solo and ensemble performances at Ravinia this summer include the Juilliard Quartet (Jun. 20), Angela Hewitt (Jul. 17), Apollo’s Fire (Jul. 27), the Danish Quartet and Juho Pohjonen, (Aug. 2), Morris Robinson (Aug. 9), and the Pacifica Quartet (Sep. 1, 2, and 3).

Make Music Chicago is part of an international program to offer free music on the longest day of the year. Make Music was launched in 1982 in France as the Fête de la Musique, and it is now held annually on the same day in more than 750 cities in 120 countries. For information on a wealth of free concerts on Jun. 21 throughout Chicago, visit makemusicchicago.org.

Rush Hour Concerts present their 18th season this summer, offering free concerts at St. James Cathedral (65 E. Huron St.) on Tuesdays from Jun. 6 to Aug. 29. The 30-minute concerts begin at 5:45 (doors open at 5 p.m.) and feature a pre-concert reception.

Performers include Robert Sims, the Kontras Quartet, Third Coast Baroque, the Spektral Quartet, members of Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center, Ensemble Dal Niente, and Axiom Brass.

For more information, visit rushhour.org.