Music Reviews

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(…)

Review: Leo Fall operetta falls short

Review: Leo Fall operetta falls short

Where: Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St. When: through Aug. 2 Tickets: chicagofolksoperetta.org By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Leo Fall (1873 – 1925) was one of the great composers of operettas. He got his early training at the Vienna Conservatory and once worked as a violinist in Franz Lehár’s orchestra. He wrote his first(…)

Review: Summer music at two Hyde Park landmarks

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon in Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago is the world’s second largest musical instrument. The largest is its sister carillon (also named for Laura Spelman Rockefeller) at the Riverside Church in New York City. This year, the University of Chicago marks half(…)

Review: Grant Park Music Festival weathers the storms

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Weather was certainly an annoying factor during the first week of the 2015 Grant Park Music Festival. The mid-week opening night was cool and looked to be rainy, which kept some people away even though the evening remained dry. On the other hand, the first Saturday night performance of(…)

Super music of the supernatural

Super music of the supernatural

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Riccardo Muti, the current and tenth music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is back in Chicago to bring the CSO’s 2014 – 15 season to a close. Last week he led the orchestra in stirring renditions of music by Alexander Scriabin and Piotr Tchaikovsky. Saturday night’s concert opened(…)

Two successful seasons brought to a close in Hyde Park

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic When you can see summer coming without resort to squinting, you also know that the music season is coming to a close. Two performing groups with strong Hyde Park support, Baroque Band and the Chicago Ensemble, have both given their final performances of the 2014-15 season and both were(…)

Salonen sizzles at Symphony Center

Salonen sizzles at Symphony Center

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Esa-Pekka Salonen concluded his three weeks at Symphony Center with a concert at the end of May consisting of works by Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen. The Finnish conductor led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a riveting performance of some great French compositions. First on the program was the flute(…)

The wonderful dreamworld of Pelléas et Mélisande

The wonderful dreamworld of Pelléas et Mélisande

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” is one of the 20th century’s landmark scores, an ethereal setting of Maurice Maeterlinck’s symbolist play of the same name. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra tapped Esa-Pekka Salonen to conduct their first-ever complete performance of the opera, and the results were spectacular. In outline, the story is a(…)

Laughter through tears: The Chicago Ensemble at International House

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Chicago Ensemble offered a splendid concert on Sunday at International House, clearly establishing why they have been a fixture on the Chicago music scene for 38 years. In a performance with many superb moments, they made the greatest effect with two works exploring Jewish themes. Dmitri Shostakovich’s rich(…)

Nails in the coffin

Nails in the coffin

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “A Coffin in Egypt” Where: Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. When: Through May 3 Tickets: $35 – $125 Contact: chicagooperatheater.org. Frederica von Stade is a much admired and loved American mezzo-soprano. And rightly so: even as she approaches 70, her voice is captivating(…)

The past is never finished

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Lyric Opera of Chicago concluded their opera offerings this season with the world premiere of a mariachi opera by José “Pepe” Martínez with libretto by Leonard Foglia. “El Pasado Nunca Se Termina” (“The Past is Never Finished”) is a fascinating, entertaining work that ties together the tumultuous revolution in(…)

All you need is love — of the baroque

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It has become commonplace for those offering concerts to give them a title. Sometimes the title imparts clear and useful information. Sometimes it is vague and flowery. Sometimes it is witty. Sometimes it is obscure. Sometimes it is pointless. Baroque Band titles their concerts in a way which offers(…)

I left my heart in the Tower of London: “The Yeomen of the Guard” at Mandel Hall

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Yeomen of the Guard,” reckoned by both its creators as their best collaboration, was recently performed at Mandel Hall. Hyde Park’s own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company Inc. (GSOCI), which has been offering productions since 1960 by operetta’s most famous duo, is presenting “Yeoman,” with(…)

I left my heart in the Tower of London: “The Yeoman of the Guard” at Mandel Hall

I left my heart in the Tower of London: “The Yeoman of the Guard” at Mandel Hall

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What:  “The Yeoman of the Guard” Where: Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St. When: Through Sun., Mar. 15 Phone: 773-702-2787 Web: ticketsweb.uchicago.edu Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Yeoman of the Guard,” reckoned by both its creators as their best collaboration, opened last night at Mandel Hall and continues with two(…)

“The Passenger” takes you on a remarkable journey

“The Passenger” takes you on a remarkable journey

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What: “The Passenger” Where: Lyric Opera, 20 North Wacker Dr. When: through Mar. 15 Phone: 312-332-2244 Composer Miecyslaw Weinberg’s opera “The Passenger” has made its Midwest premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production which gives this long-ignored work its proper due. The opera is based on the(…)

Second cast is first rate in Lyric’s Tosca

Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through March 14 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Revolutionary intrigue and artistic temperament combine for tragedy in Puccini’s “Tosca,” now at Lyric Opera of Chicago. The second cast in the production directed by John Caird is led by Hue He (in the title role)(…)

“The Property,” though flawed, worth seeing

Where: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie When: through March 5 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic As part of its effort to reach new audiences, Lyric Opera of Chicago — through its Lyric Unlimited initiative — presented the world premiere of a new, short klezmer opera at the Logan Center,(…)

Not your usual ghost story

Not your usual ghost story

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Emile Zola strove in his writings to offer a bleeding slice of life. He surely succeeded in “ThérèseRaquin,” a story of lust and murder that one contemporary French critic decried as “putrid” and a “quagmire of slime and blood.” American composer Tobias Picker created an English language opera of(…)

Stunning voices in uneven “Tannhäuser”

Where: Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through March 6 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” pits profane and sacred love against each other in battle for the title character’s soul. Lyric Opera of Chicago now offers the opera in a production new to Chicago, the first time it has(…)

A swift substitute saves the evening for University of Chicago Presents

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic One of the biggest problems a music presenter faces is what to do when an artist cancels at short notice. Amy Iwano, executive director of University of Chicago Presents, had just this problem when she learned only days before last Friday’s scheduled performance that violinist Isabelle Faust was ill(…)