Music Reviews

Let us be merry, put sorrow away: Anonymous 4 at Rockefeller Chapel

Let us be merry, put sorrow away: Anonymous 4 at Rockefeller Chapel

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic This is the time of year when even the most hard-hearted among us stop and take pause when they hear good, cheering holiday music. Rockefeller Chapel was stuffed full on Sunday afternoon for a concert of Christmas music of another kind: Of the kind most of us have never(…)

Review: Emerging composers first opera: flawed yet glorious

Review: Emerging composers first opera: flawed yet glorious

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “Bel Canto” by Jimmy Lopez Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Dr. When: Through Jan. 17, 2016 Phone: 312-332-2244 Critics of opera sometimes laugh off the art form as irrelevant. Lyric Opera of Chicago’s first main stage world premiere in over a decade is anything but that. “Bel(…)

Review: A string quartet to remember

Review: A string quartet to remember

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic University of Chicago Presents offered up the Arcanto Quartet as their final guests of the 2015 calendar year in its Classic Concert Series at Mandel Hall last month. It was the string quartet’s Chicago debut and they made the most of it, performing music by Bach, Schumann and Smetana(…)

Review: Dazzling fortepiano on the Midway

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The fortepiano, the immediate precursor of today’s piano, could well have been consigned to oblivion but for the period instrument movement of the last century. The fortepiano was remarkable in its day, created around 1700 by an Italian harpsichord maker. Initially, the instruments were very expensive and only royalty(…)

A Merry Rom-Com at Lyric Opera

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: Lehár’s “The Merry Widow” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 North Wacker Dr. When: Through Dec. 13 Phone: 312-332-2244 The holiday season is now upon us and that means that you can count on Lyric Opera of Chicago to have a feel-good opera on tap. This year it’s Franz Lehár’s(…)

Review: Unforgettable “Wozzeck” at Lyric Opera

What: Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 North Wacker Dr. When: Through Nov. 21 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Alban Berg’s “Wozzeck” is one of the 20th century’s great art masterpieces. The new production currently on offer at Lyric Opera of Chicago is a thoughtful and searing depiction of a common(…)

Review: Fine Hyde Park performance of rarely heard music

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Gerald Rizzer has a knack for finding music with appeal and merit that most people haven’t heard before. He programs works spanning from the baroque period to this century written for a wide range of different small ensemble configurations. For 38 years Rizzer, the pianist, artistic director and founder(…)

Review: A clutch of little-known operas

Where: Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave. When: through Nov. 8 Contact: thirdeye.com By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Third Eye Theatre Ensemble, a company formed a year ago, is now presenting the Midwest and Chicago premiere of Mohammed Fairouz’s opera “Sumeida’s Song” at the Prop Thtr (3502 N. Elston Ave.). It is the haunting(…)

Review: An enchanting “Cinderella”

Review: An enchanting “Cinderella”

Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through Oct. 30 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Before the first note sounded, before the curtain went up, before I even arrived at the Civic Opera House, I couldn’t help but notice something different at the opera on Saturday night. There were quite a(…)

University of Chicago Presents

The University of Chicago Presents season got underway Friday night at Mandel Hall with a program of diverting music given a masterful treatment by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble. The evening opened with Mozart’s Divertimento in D, K.136/125a. The five string players (the usual voices of a string quartet plus(…)

Review: Dueling keyboardists and a fist full of arias

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Baroque Band opened its 2015-16 season in Hyde Park at the Augustana Lutheran Church on Saturday night with music that put the spotlight on both harpsichord and fortepiano. The guest soloist for the former was harpsichordist and conductor Ian Watson with the soloist for the latter being Baroque Band’s(…)

Review: Chicago bathed in Mozart Operas

By M.L. Rantala Classical Music Critic What: Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 North Wacker Dr. When: Through Oct. 24 Phone: 312-332-2244 And What: Mozart’s “Lucia Silla” Where: Harris Theater , 205 E. Randolph St. When: Through Oct. 4 Contact: chicagooperatheater.org The Chicago opera season opened with a splash on Saturday with(…)

Review: Muti marvelous in CSO season opener

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Chicago Symphony Orchestra opened its 125th anniversary season Thursday night with Riccardo Muti at the podium leading the orchestra in works by Liszt, Mozart and Beethoven. Symphony Center was packed well before Muti took to the stage with a microphone to begin the evening with remarks lasting several(…)

Review: The stars of Lyric Opera shine at Millenium Park

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Very cool weather did not dampen crowd enthusiasm at Lyric Opera of Chicago’s annual free concert at the Pritzker Pavilion, held last Friday night. Lyric brought most of the stars of its first two operas of the season to Millennium Park and the audience was well pleased. The concert(…)

Review: Sometimes the best things in life really are free

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The upcoming classical music and opera season (soon to be previewed in these pages) offers numerous occasions for you to empty your wallet. So it’s worth taking notice when valuable events are free of charge. Discussed here are four performances this month, two in Hyde Park and two downtown,(…)

Review: Another summer at the Grant Park Music Festival ends

Review: Another summer at the Grant Park Music Festival ends

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic As summer winds down, gasping for its last moments of hot sunshine (rather feebly at the moment), so too do the summer music festivals and outdoor concerts wane here in Chicago. I caught the penultimate concert of the summer season at the Grant Park Music Festival at the end(…)

Review: Mattila’s masterful moments at the Martin Theatre

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Opera star Karita Mattila took the small stage at Ravinia’s Martin Theatre this month for a song recital which showcased her vocal talents in an intimate setting, making for a wonderful evening of music. The Finnish soprano opened with four songs by Brahms, juxtaposing hard-hitting big sound with evocative(…)

Review: Conlon bids farewell to Ravinia with a splendid “Dutchman”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic James Conlon, who since 2005 has held the title music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Residency at the Ravinia Festival, ended his tenure Saturday night. His final trip to the Ravinia podium as music director was a concert performance of “The Flying Dutchman” by Wagner, featuring the Chicago(…)

Still the best

By M.L.RANTALA Classical Music Critic William Grant Still (1895 – 1978) is an American composer whose quality of musical compositions in a large number of forms unaccountably far exceeds his current reputation. He wrote in an unapologetically populist style, rejecting most 20th century compositional techniques (although he had once studied with Edgar Varèse), instead insisting(…)

Sibelius scores sparkle at Grant Park

Sibelius scores sparkle at Grant Park

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1956). To mark this milestone, the Grant Park Music Festival placed a trio of Sibelius compositions in a performance held last Tuesday night at the South Shore Cultural Center. The concert featured 20th and(…)