Classical

Harmony in Motion: Peter Sellars and Grant Gershon get closer to Him through The Tears of Saint Peter

Harmony in Motion: Peter Sellars and Grant Gershon get closer to Him through The Tears of Saint Peter

“John was looking for a texture for The Gospel According to the Other Mary,” explains Sellars, “and he was going through medieval music and Renaissance music kind of like Igor Stravinsky, looking for music where there’s a very detailed and elaborate harmonic language. John came across Lasso and became so excited. He told both Grant and me to look at Orlando de Lasso.”

Read More

Ode to Ludwig: Beethoven's symphonies meet at the crossroads of popularity and vitality

Three of Beethoven’s seismic symphonies are featured on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia residency this summer, and Alsop heads up the pack on July 14 with the world-moving Ninth, featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus and soloists soprano Tamara Wilson, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, tenor Paul Appleby, and bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green. Gustavo Dudamel makes his eagerly awaited debut leading the Seventh on July 18 with an all-Beethoven program that also features his longtime, equally starry collaborator Yuja Wang performing the First Piano Concerto. Last, but not least, of Ravinia’s triptych is the Fifth, fated to be feted in the hands of Vasily Petrenko on August 4.

Read More

Aiming for the Score: Inon Barnatan approaches his canon on the ball

When pianist Inon Barnatan returns to Ravinia on July 21, he’ll be there to extend the history of an institution. The festival has been hosting a high-spirited, evening-long celebration of Tchaikovsky every season for now 40 years. The Russian composer’s tuneful, dramatic ballets and symphonies are among the world’s most beloved classical pieces, and every year since the early ’80s, Ravinia’s “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” has ended with a rousing version of the 1812 Overture, complete with live cannons. This summer, for the first time, the ever-popular event occupies a full weekend, July 21–22, with concerts featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ken-David Masur. The Violin Concerto—with Miriam Fried, the venerable, 25-year lion of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, as soloist—is the centerpiece for July 22, the traditional Sunday concert, and Israeli-born Barnatan is joining the CSO as soloist in the First Piano Concerto.

Read More

Keeping the Faith: Marin Alsop reveals and revels in Leonard Bernstein's everlasting power

“I thought, what I want for the Ravinia audience, if we can pull it off, is somebody who’s going to see the full picture of Bernstein, had a personal relationship with him and can conduct the stuff like crazy. I want somebody who I enjoy talking to. There’s selfishness to it, I guess. I’ve just always found her to be extraordinary,” says Kauffman, who was an artistic administrator with the New York Philharmonic when Alsop made her guest-conducting debut there in December 1999 as part of an Aaron Copland festival.

In addition to holding a succession of conducting posts, including her current roles as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra in Brazil, Alsop has followed Bernstein’s beat as an articulate spokeswoman and innovative advocate for classical music. She has also been a leading champion of his music; a boxed set of her complete Bernstein recordings on the Naxos label was released earlier this year. As a testament to her multifaceted accomplishments, she is the only conductor to win a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”—an honor she received in 2005.

Read More

One orchestra to lead them all: The CSO takes on ‘LOTR’ trilogy

What could make 10 hours of elves, dwarves, hobbits, and orcs even better? A live symphony orchestra, of course.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform the soundtrack to all three films in the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy on consecutive evenings August 18–20 at Ravinia, with the movies projected on screens in the Pavilion and on the lawn. The CSO had performed the individual films at Ravinia in previous years, but seeing the entire trilogy over three evenings will be a new experience in the Midwest.

Read More

Nadine Sierra: A Soprano Singing for Her Self in the Seats

Nadine Sierra first came to my attention some years ago while researching an article about singer education for Opera News. At the time, she was an apprentice in the Adler Fellowship Program at San Francisco Opera. In conversations with various educators and administrators, Sierra’s name kept popping up as an example of an aspiring singer with the rare combination of qualities to succeed in classical music. Those were prescient impressions. In the few years since, the delectable Sierra’s luminescent soprano voice has conquered the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Berlin State Opera, and that pinnacle of vocal accomplishment, Milan’s La Scala, among many others.

Read More

Huckleberry Friends: Audrey, Henry and Me

I grabbed the ad and flew to the mezzanine level of the house, where technicians and grips were arranging lights and cables. When I approached one and asked, “Do you think I could get Miss Hepburn to autograph this for me?” the grip answered, “Why not ask her yourself? She’s right over there.” I hadn’t even noticed her diminutive figure sitting on the stairs studying her script, and although I didn’t want to cause any disruption in the production, I hurriedly went over and blurted out, “Miss Hepburn, I’m a huge fan of yours and have had this photo in my office for years. Would you please sign it ‘To John’?”

Read More

Lionel Bringuier: A Nice Guy looks Forward to making the CSO Swell

Lionel Bringuier is only 30 years old, but he has a decade and a half of conducting experience that he will bring to the podium on July 11, when the Chicago Symphony Orchestra begins its 82nd annual residency at the festival. “I grew up in Nice, and my parents loved music,” he says, recalling his formative years as the youngest of four children. “My whole family and I used to go to concerts together. I was always amazed at seeing an entire orchestra onstage.”

Read More

Pixel Perfect: Become virtually part of the music in The Virtual Orchestra

In today’s high-tech world of digital sampling and music streaming, the symphony orchestra is a wonderful if curious anachronism, with many of its instruments and much of its repertoire dating back centuries. Even for regular attendees of symphony concerts, the alchemy of how 80 to 100 or more diverse musicians come together under a conductor to produce one coordinated body of sound remains something of a mystery.

Read More

Meryl Streep triumphs and nauseates as Florence Foster Jenkins!

As a classical musician, there is nothing I hate more than people ridiculing my art. When the only representations of opera singers in the media are fat, sweaty tenors and sopranos the size of battle cruisers, you tend to be pessimistic as to whether or not it is possible to portray a passion for classical music in a way that a modern audience would find inspiring.

In the most unorthodox way, Florence Foster Jenkins proves that classical music, though often seen as stuffy and alienating, stems from a burning adoration for the art of bringing music to life.

Read More

A Keyboard by any Name Sounds as Sweet

closeup of piano keys

Because I was a still very young, I chafed at the appropriation of harpsichord music by pianists—especially since I was studying harpsichord—and it seemed rather obvious to me that one ought to perform music on the instrument for which it was composed. This was the bedrock assumption of the “original instrument” school of “authentic” performance practice, which was just beginning to go mainstream at the time and which today dominates the field of Baroque music performance. What I’ve learned since then, however, is that the whole subject is far more complex than it first seemed to me.

Read More