Music Reviews

Reach to be relevant falls flat

Reach to be relevant falls flat

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic What can be done to make classical music events more relevant? This is a question which comes and goes, but never actually goes away. “The Legend of the Northern Lights,” which had its world premiere at the Grant Park Music Festival last weekend, may have something to contribute to(…)

Tears of a clown

Tears of a clown

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci” is a cornerstone of operatic verismo, a compact powerhouse of human emotion and tragedy, clocking in at about 70 minutes. Because it’s short, it’s nearly always placed on a double-bill, but for their inaugural production, Chicago’s newest opera company, The Cobalt Opera, chose to let “Pagliacci”(…)

Mälkki and Midori at Ravinia

M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Last month, Susanna Mälkki made her Ravinia debut conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She’s become one of the female conductors to watch since she left her position as principal cellist of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra to study conducting at the Sibelius Academy. She’s begun to make a name for herself(…)

Fun and frolic at the “Ball at the Savoy”

Fun and frolic at the “Ball at the Savoy”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Paul Abraham’s “Ball at the Savoy” (original German title: “Ball im Savoy”) is a frisky, frothy concoction jam-packed with soaring melodies, uproarious ditties, grand dance numbers and lots of wholesome fun. Chicago Folks Operetta’s American premiere is a splendid way to spend a summer evening; you’re likely to come(…)

A trip to South Shore, a journey through the Planets

A trip to South Shore, a journey through the Planets

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Summer in Chicago is a time of free outdoor enjoyment. For classical music lovers, the main venues are Millennium Park and Ravinia. But the South Shore Cultural Center has already had some splendid offerings at no charge. Last week, the Grant Park Orchestra traveled to the South Shore Cultural(…)

Music on the Midway Plaisance

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Today I catch up by reporting on two recent events for which there was insufficient space at the time I heard them to review them immediately. They each happened just off Hyde Park’s Midway Plaisance, but in two very different venues. First, I was tempted to visit the Performance(…)

Compelling composition in clerical garb

Compelling composition in clerical garb

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Hans von Bülow, the 19th century German conductor, pianist and composer, famously declared that Verdi’s Requiem was an “opera in clerical garb.” The same might be said of Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass, although the Slavic nationalism of this towering work is equally present. The Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, along(…)

South Shore Opera Company presents sizzling concert

South Shore Opera Company presents sizzling concert

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It was a generous evening of music when the South Shore Opera Company of Chicago presented their free June concert in the spacious Paul Robeson Theater. This gleaming hall is one of the many gorgeous rooms in the South Shore Cultural Center where the SSOCC is an arts and(…)

Homage to Catalonia

Homage to Catalonia

Joan Plana speaks several European languages, but his native language, Catalan, is unknown to the average American. He makes himself understood not only in excellent English, but in the language of music. Plana was born and raised in the Lleida province of Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain. Today this talented baroque violinist is based(…)

One promising beginning and one happy ending

One promising beginning and one happy ending

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It was an inauspicious evening for the opening of an outdoor festival. It had rained that day, and it remained overcast and gloomy well past dark. Yet the first concert of the 80th season of the Grant Park Music Festival had a decent-sized and enthusiastic crowd – a testament(…)

Shining art from a dark era

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Chicago Symphony Orchestra recently completed its three-week festival entitled “Truth to Power.” The performances are of works written in the 1930s and 1940s and the uniting idea is that though this period of history was fraught with peril “yet in this dark era, Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri(…)

Review: “The Emperor of Atlantis” and “The Clever One”

Where: Merle Reskin Theatre (60 E. Balbo) When: through Jun. 8 Tickets: 312-704-8414 In 1943 two men living under the Nazis completed one-act works of musical theater. One of them died in Auschwitz, the other lived in comfort for almost another 40 years. Chicago Opera Theater is presenting these two pieces in four performances at(…)

Review: “Truth to Power”

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Where: Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan When: through Jun. 8 Tickets: 312-294-3000 The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is in the midst of its three week festival entitled “Truth to Power.” The performances are of works written in the 30s and 40s and the uniting idea is that though this period(…)

Mischievous Medieval Minstrels at the top of the Logan Center

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic It can be fun and fascinating to learn about something just as it coalesces into being. Sunday night the newly formed University of Chicago Medieval Minstrelsy gave their first concert and I was there at the ground floor. And by ground floor I mean the penthouse of the university’s(…)

Chicago Ensemble charms at I-House

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The Chicago Ensemble, now in its 37th season, is clearly one of Chicago’s most durable music performing groups. Artistic director Gerald Rizzer has consistently proven that he can craft engaging programs that combine well-known works with music off the beaten path. Sometimes the lesser-known pieces are by the most(…)

Review: “The Sound of Music”

Where: Lyric Opera of Chicago, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive When: through May 25 Tickets: $29-$199 Phone: 312-332-2244 By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The 1965 movie “The Sound of Music,” starring Julie Andrews, is one of the greatest musicals ever put on film. Millions of people who have seen the screen version(…)

SOBs shine through Baroque Band

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Baroque Band has been pleasing Chicago and particularly Hyde Park audiences since 2007. Founded by British violinist Garry Clarke, it has established itself as a fixture on the Chicago music scene. Such is its strength that it has continued without a glitch this season even with Clarke on a(…)

Salonen shows his skill at CSO

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Last month Esa-Pekka Salonen was awarded the Nemmers Prize in Music Composition by the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University and last week Chicago audiences had a chance to hear him conduct one of his recent works on the podium in front of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Entitled(…)

A pleasing program of program music with the CSO

By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic Program music was the order of the day when guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night. The evening began with “

Review: “La tragédie de Carmen”

Where: The Den Theater, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. When: through April 13 Web: cubeensemble.com By M.L. RANTALA Classical Music Critic The CUBE Ensemble was founded in 1987 by composer and oboist Patricia Morehead. Along with Philip Morehead, her husband of more than 50 years, and other talented local composers and musicians, for nearly three decades(…)