Music Reviews

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(…)

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(…)