Great spring concerts abound in Hyde Park and beyond

Violinist Alan Snow will perform with the Chicago Ensemble in Hyde Park on Sunday, June 3. – Photo courtesy of The Chicago Ensemble

By M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic

Summer is just around the corner but before the sun-filled festivals begin, there are still lots of spring concerts here in Hyde Park or concerts nearby featuring Hyde Parkers. This brief preview highlights some of those concerts.

For its 41st season finale the Chicago Ensemble departs from its regular off-the-beaten-track programming, and instead offers two towering masterworks of the piano trio literature: Beethoven’s Trio No. 1 in E-flat Major, and Brahms’s Trio No. 2 in C Major, op. 87.

The Hyde Park concert is Sun., June 3, at 3 p.m. at the University of Chicago’s International House. (Another performance of the same program takes place Tuesady, May 29, at 7:30 p.m. at Fourth Presbyterian Church near the Water Tower.)

Featured performers are the group’s artistic director and pianist, Gerald Rizzer; Andrew Snow, who has been the cellist of the Ensemble for over a decade; and Mr. Snow’s son, Alan, whose last-minute appearance earlier this year, when the regular violinist became ill, was greeted with considerable audience enthusiasm.

The Beethoven trio is his first published work and those familiar with it generally consider it a masterpiece. Beethoven played all three of his op. 1 trios in a salon concert hosted by Prince Lichnowsky, who was one of the music-loving Viennese aristocrats whose patronage aided Beethoven throughout his career. Beethoven’s teacher, Haydn, was present for the occasion. The wit, charm, energy and flawless construction of the teacher’s music is all in evidence in the 23 year old student’s work.

Brahms’s op. 86 trio has a grandeur akin to his monumental op. 83 Piano Concerto No. 2. In particular, the intense, chromatic first movement has a near-symphonic breadth. The scherzo movements of both pieces belie the meaning of the Italian word scherzo (joke). They are restless and dark, although they share the general form of the playful scherzo. In the variations of the slow movement, Brahms displays his fondness for Hungarian folk music.

For more information, visit thechicagoensemble.org.

Rockefeller Chapel is the site of the Rockefeller Carillon New Music Festival that takes place Friday, May 25, at 5 p.m. and Saturday, May 26, at 10 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. The Festival will present 16 world premieres of music for bells — including music for carillon and electronics and carillon and other instruments — performed on the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon.

The Friday evening program includes a reception at 5:30 p.m. with the artists, composers, and creators of the festival, with the headline composition — “Ripple Effects for Carillon” by Augusta Read Thomas — performed at 6 p.m. A recital showcasing the festival’s four lead performers follows at 6:30 p.m. The Saturday program includes eight short recitals, interspersed with visual presentations in diverse formats about the music, the composers, and the world of new music for carillon. Free, with light refreshments throughout the event.

Also at Rockefeller Chapel is a celebration of Leonard Bernstein on Saturday, June 2, at 4 p.m. It will be a festive celebration of the Bernstein centennial, with excerpts from “Chichester Psalms,” “Make Our Garden Grow,” choruses from “The Lark,” and other favorites. Featuring nearly 200 members of the university choirs with Thomas Weisflog on the organ, the concert ends with a unique performance of Bernstein on the carillon and amplified instruments featuring university carillonneur Joey Brink. Free and open to the public.

For more information on Rockefeller events, visit http://rockefeller.uchicago.edu.

A consortium of local women composers known as 6Degrees Composers will offer a spring concert on Friday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Ganz Hall, which is on the 7th floor of the 430 S. Michigan Ave. building of Roosevelt University.

The concert features works by Hyde Park composer Janice Misurell-Mitchell as well as Regina Harris Baiocchi, Kyong Mee Choi, and Patricia Morehead. The music employs voice, winds, percussion, and electronics. Among the performers are Leila Bowie and Rae-Myra Hilliard, sopranos; Andrew Greiche, narrator; Janice Misurell-Mitchell, flute and voice; Alicia Cordoba Tait, oboe and English horn; Daniel Won, clarinet; George Blanchet and John Corkill, percussion; and Kuang-Hao Huang and Jana Pavlovska, piano.

The concert is free and will be followed by a reception.

Hyde Park-based Le Cantanti di Chicago, a women’s choir, will present a concert on Sunday, May 20, at 5 p.m. at St. Therese Chinese Catholic Church, 218 West Alexander St. The event will include special guests Inga Hokens, Amanda Mejia, Petronella Fernando, and Christian Shiu. Jennifer McCabe will be the pianist.

The group’s director, Dhilanthi Fernando, writes about the concert: “We will begin with Rachmaninoff’s powerful and lush ‘Spring Waters,’ and move on to songs about rivers (‘Shenandoah,’ ‘Wood River’), Storms (‘Stormy Weather,’ ‘Even in the Storm,’ ‘Dance’), as well as songs that speak about the ravage caused by water, such as ‘Florida Storm’ (a shape-note song about the flood of 1926). ‘Louisiana 1927’ (flood of 1927 composed by Randy Newman, arranged for women’s choir), ‘Hope for Healing’ (Asian tsunami of 2004), and many others, including Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ where the audience will be invited to sing along. We will also be joined by the choir of St. Therese Church in a joint rendition of a beautiful gospel arrangement of ‘Shall We Gather at the River.’”

Encore Illinois offers a concert on Sunday, May 6, at 2 p.m. at Congregation Rodfei Zedek, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd. Encore choirs began in Washington D.C., and provide choral singing opportunities for adults aged 55 and beyond in the Chicago area under the direction of a professional artist.

For more information, visit https://encoreillinois.org/.