There’s more to summer classical music in Chicago than Grant Park and Ravinia (although those giants are never outdone). Reserve a spot on your summer concert calendar for these highlights:
The Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra raises the bar for pop concerts: Under new executive director Terell Johnson, the Phil’s 2021/22 season has been the most enterprising of its peers, wrapping up the Midwest premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Mandolin Concerto in March (performed by virtuoso Avi Avital) and featuring new works by composers – Jonathan Bingham, Marcus Norris and Reinaldo Moya in residence throughout the season. The Philharmonic’s full summer lineup is yet to be determined, but they’re closing out their main season with “Aretha Rising,” a turbo-boosted tribute to Broadway star Capathia Jenkins’ prodigious hits, and “‘Black Panther’ in Concert. “, with Ludwig Göransson’s score performed live by Philharmonic drummer and “tama” Massamba Diop, also featured on the Oscar and Grammy-winning soundtrack. “Aretha Rising,” 7 p.m. May 29 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.; tickets $10 to $75. “’Black Panther’ in Concert,” 7:30 p.m. June 18 at the Chicago Theater, 175 N. State St.; tickets $49-$130. More information at chicagophilharmonic.org
Peak hour 2022: Let’s play instead: You’d rather leave work and pile into the sheet metal cars of the CTA, like cans of sardines suspended in sweat, or unwind in a cool nave, lulled by a free chamber music concert? These International Music Foundation Tuesday night concerts feature the best chamber bands in town, and this year’s lineup is no exception, including the Kontras Quartet (June 7), solo violin of the CSO Robert Chen‘s family quartet (June 14), the Lincoln Threesome (July 26) and Axiom Brass (August 9). 5:45 p.m. June 7-August. 23 St. James Cathedral, 65 E Huron St.; free. More information at imfchicago.org
A very Esa-Pekka Salonen summer: The Finnish composer-conductor is breaking his tacet with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, returning with one of the invigorating residencies he conducted regularly before the pandemic. First up: a 20th-century program that travels back in time to the present day, featuring Salonen compatriot Pekka Kuusisto in a new violin concerto by Bryce Dessner from The National (May 26-31). Next, Salonen pairs her own Pulitzer Prize-winning Caroline Shaw’s “Gemini” and “Entr’acte” with music from Maurice Ravel’s epic ballet “Daphnis and Chloe” (June 2-4). May 26-June 4, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; tickets $29-$250 at cso.org
Muti closes the CSO season: Before moving on to his final year at the CSO, music director Riccardo Muti has unfinished business – namely, buttoning up Beethoven’s birthday celebrations that have bled into this season (here with Anne-Sophie Mutter on the Violin Concerto by Beethoven), conducting a concert of Verdi’s required opera (“Un ballo in maschera”), and the re-establishment of the CSO’s massive concert for Chicago at Millennium Park. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, June 16-18, tickets $39-$399; “Un ballo in maschera”, from June 23 to 28, tickets from $45 to $399; both at the Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. The concert for Chicago will be June 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St.; free. More information at cso.org
Grant Park Music Festival: As always, it’s hard to condense a festival as itinerant and fiery as this one. But if necessary: Pianist michelle cann, fervent and passionate defender of the music of Florence Price, opens the season with the posthumous Piano Concerto in one movement by the composer (June 15, 6:30 p.m.). Straddling the classical and jazz worlds, eminent pianist Billy Child is a composer of the day of the 2022 festival, with its Violin Concerto No. 2 (played by the dedicatee Rachel Barton Pin, 6:30 p.m. July 15 and 7:30 p.m. July 16) and new string quartet (performing around city parks throughout the season, June 30 to July 28). This season is also full of world premieres: “Blue Matter” by Mischa Zupko (6:30 p.m. on June 17 and 7:30 p.m. on July 18), Zofomorphosis by Carl Vine (performed by piano duo ZOFO, 6:30 p.m. June 22), and Flute Concerto by Christopher Theofanidis (played by flautist Marina Piccinini, 6:30 p.m. on August 10). The season closes with Haydn’s breathtaking chorus-orchestra “Creation” (6:30 p.m. on August 19 and 7:30 p.m. on August 20). June 15–August 20, Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St., free. More information at grantparkmusicfestival.com
Haymarket revives Joseph Bologna’s only opera: The overture to “The Anonymous Lover,” by classical-era polymath Joseph Bologne – aka the Knight of St. George – has seen high-profile performances this season. Kudos to Haymarket for putting together the entire opera, as the South Shore Opera Company had hoped for in 2020 before COVID-19 doomed the production. The splendid soprano Nicole Cabell plays the main role. 7:30 p.m. June 17-18, 3 p.m. June 19 at Jarvis Opera Hall at DePaul University’s Holtscheider Performance Center, 800 W. Belden Ave.; tickets $47-$92 at haymarketopera.org/chevalier
An embarrassment of riches at Ravinia: The festival’s new chef, Jeff Haydon, continues to make a strong impression in his first full year at the helm of the Côte-Nord institution. This season, the composer in residence of the CSO Jessie Montgomery leaves its mark on the summer residence of the symphony with a Steans Institute of Music program of his works (2 p.m. on July 2, Bennett Gordon Hall). Later pianist Marcus Roberts and his trio join the CSO in its ‘Rhapsody in D’, programmed alongside Antonin Dvorák’s ‘New World’ symphony and arrangements by the tenor/composer/conductor Adrian Dunn for his Adrian Dunn Singers (7:30 p.m. on July 16, Pavilion). When it comes to guest soloists, you can’t go wrong with the baritone Matthias Goerne singing Schubert (7:30 p.m. on July 26, Théâtre Martin) or a luminous young pianist Alexander Malofeev in a lush all-Russian program (August 4, Martin Theater). Other events not to be missed: a unique event in Ravinia Tribute to Stephen Sondheim with the CSO (5:00 p.m. on August 7, Pavillon) and the return of Ravinia’s longtime director James Conlon in concert versions of “La clemenza di Tito” and “Don Giovanni” by Mozart (11-14 August, Théâtre Martin). May 20 to September 18, Ravinia Park, 201 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park; free tickets up to $145 at ravinia.org
Breaking Barriers Festival: Soon to be a Ravinia tradition, this festival-within-a-festival is worth popping into a full-fledged entry. The first concert of the festival brings together three protégés of Ravinia curator/conductor Marin Alsop on stage simultaneously for “Time Machine for Three Conductors” by Michael Daughtery (8:00 p.m. July 29). Next, Alsop pays homage to his own mentor, Leonard Bernstein, with a performance of his Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish” (7:30 p.m. July 30). Jeri Lynne Johnson — one of the conductors of this first program and recently in Chicago at the head of “Quamino’s Map” of the COT — conducts the Chicago Sinfonietta in a new work by Jessie Montgomery based on Mo Willems’ book “Because”, about a young girl’s journey to the podium (noon July 31). It ends with a bang by the bass player Esperanza Spalding and Mr. perinethe Colombian group is experiencing a Gen Z resurgence when their bubbly 2015 song “Nuestra Cancíon” premiered on TikTok in heaven last year (6:30 p.m. July 31). From July 29 to 31, all at Ravinia Park Pavilion except “Because”, at Bennett Gordon Hall. 201 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park; tickets $15-$145 at breakingbarriers.ravinia.org
The Chicago Opera Festival returns: A welcome sight to the old inbox: After an auspicious freshman season, the Chicago Opera Festival lives to see another summer. The 2022 run of shows from July 8-24 is similar to last year, with two fully staged productions of lyrical rarities from Gioachino Rossini and Giuseppe Verdi and a commemorative recital programme. This year is dedicated to what would have been Renata Tebaldi’s 100th birthday year, with an exhibition of the soprano’s iconic costumes. Rossini’s “L’inganno felice,” 7:30 p.m. July 8 and 2 p.m. July 10 at the Athenaeum Center, 2936 N. Southport Ave.; tickets $45. Tebaldi @100 7:30 p.m. July 15 at Ganz Hall at Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave.; tickets $50. Verdi’s “Il Corsaro,” 7:30 p.m. July 22 and 2 p.m. July 24 at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson Street, Evanston; tickets $45. More information at operafestivalchicago.org
Thirsty Ears Festival: Classical music is the focus of a street festival in this rite of Ravenswood, organized by the nonprofit Access Contemporary Music. Highlights include a preview of a new album by PalomaACM’s house set and an encore screening of its 17th edition Mute Sound Festival. Other confirmed performers include the conducted double bass The growlersand young musicians from Chicago Chamber Music Festival and ACM School of Music. 2-10 p.m. Aug. 13, 2-9 p.m. Aug. 14, on Wilson outside ACM School of Music, 1758 W. Wilson Ave., suggested donation $10. More information at acmusic.org cq
Hannah Edgar is a freelance writer.
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