2013 Summer Season: Grant Park Fest spins Chinese and Incan threads, jazz and modern
Report: Under the stars at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park, the Grant Park Music Festival kicks off its 79th free-concert summer season on June 12. Here’s a week-by-week look.
By Nancy Malitz
It almost matters not when you visit the green for outdoor concerts at the Grant Park Music Festival. The blockbusters come along with promising regularity, and this year’s line-up will stretch the ears with far-reaching global sounds under the direction of Uraguayan Carlos Kalmar, the festival’s principal conductor.
Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” arguably the greatest classical work of the 20th century, is featured Aug. 16-17. Benjamin Britten’s shattering “War Requiem,” one of the great anti-war works of any era, comes along June 28-29. Both are anniversary celebrations: Britten was born a hundred years ago, and so was Stravinsky’s still-imposing ballet, the violent rhythms and shocking harmonies of which caused a scandal at its Paris premiere.
Also on tap is John Adams’ sumptuous, often ecstatic and now legendary “Harmonium” for chorus and orchestra, which took minimalism to a new place in the 1980s.
And from our new century comes Roberto Sierra’s Concerto for Saxophones, to be performed by jazz luminary James Carter, switching off between soprano and tenor horns, just as he did at the Detroit Symphony premiere in 2002. That Detroit occasion was one of those rare nights in the concert hall when the crowd went into a rhythmic clap, shouting and demanding a repeat, and so Carter acquiesced with a big chunk of it.
“Iris Dévoilée” (Iris Unveiled) by the elegant Chinese composer Qigang Chen was also first performed in 2002, by the Orchestre National de France, and has since been performed all over the world. Chen was music director for the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
Chen graduated from China’s top conservatory in 1983 and went directly to France to study with the celebrated Parisian composer Olivier Messiaen. Now in his early 60s, he writes music that is an exquisite assimilation of Chinese and French influences. “Iris Dévoilée” includes the sounds of Chinese female voices and traditional instruments such as the erhu, pipa and zheng along with a full orchestra.
And although I have heard no music yet from Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s “Caminos del Inka” project, which aims to preserve and re-energize the music of the civilizations connected by historic Inca trails in South America, the mix of top-name Hispanic composers to be represented at Grant Park looks intriguing — Daniel Alomía Robles, Gabriela Lena Frank, Osvaldo Golijov and Ary Barroso. Meanwhile. there is plenty on YouTube to suggest that “Caminos del Inka” is going to be as far-reaching as the music coming out of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project:
Open lunchtime rehearsals of the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus begin June 11 and typically take place Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Audiences are welcome to sit and listen. For details about these and other ancillary Grant Park Music Festival programs, visit the Grant Park Festival website.
Here’s a week by week breakdown of Grant Park Orchestra concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion:
- Wednesday, June 12 at 6:30 p.m.: The season opens with what is hands-down the best title for a new work I’ve come across in recent memory – “Drip Blip Sparkle Spin Glint Glide Glow Float Flop Chop Pop Shatter Splash,” a short work written in 2005 by young American composer Andrew Norman, who says he “chopped up sounds from the orchestra … and tossed them all together.” Also: Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5; Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4. Stefan Jackiw, the violinist, achieved instant celebrity among young classical music fans as a soloist with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in Sydney, 2011, which you can catch on YouTube; the conductor for this, and most Grant Park orchestra concerts, is Carlos Kalmar
- Friday, June 14 at 6:30; Saturday, June 15 at 7:30: Barber “Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance”; Copland “Billy the Kid” Suite; Prokofiev cantata “Alexander Nevsky.“Emilia Boteva, Ukrainian-born mezzo-soprano; Grant Park Chorus; Carlos Kalmar, conductor; Christopher Bell, chorus director.
- Wednesday, June 19 at 6:30: Pink Martini, the eclectic classical-latin-jazz fusion group. Carlos Kalmar, conductor.
- Friday, June 21 at 6:30; Saturday, June 22 at 7:30: Chen “Iris dévoilée”; Fauré “Pelléas and Mélisande” Suite; Ravel “La Valse.” Xiaoduo Chen, soprano; Meng Meng, soprano; Wei-Yang Andy Lin, erhu; Yang Wei, pipa; Yang Yi, zheng; Carlos Kalmar, conductor.
- Wednesday, June 26 at 6:30: Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5; Nielsen Clarinet Concerto; Martinu “Thunderbolt P47.” Martin Frost, clarinet, Carlos Kalmar, conductor.
- Friday, June 28 at 6:30; Saturday, June 29 at 7:30: Britten “War Requiem.” Erin Wall, soprano; Jeremy Ovenden, tenor; Alan Held, bass; Chicago Children’s Choir directed by Josephine Lee; Grant Park Chorus; Carlos Kalmar, conductor; Christopher Bell, chorus director.
- Wednesday, July 3 at 6:30: Independence Eve Celebration. Janai Brugger, Chicago-born soprano, a winner of the Metropolitan Opera 2012 Auditions and a Ravinia Festival Steans Institute grad; Christopher Bell, conductor.
- Friday, July 5 at 6:30; Saturday, July 6 at 7:30: Bolcom “Ragomania, A Classic Festival Overture”; Barber Piano Concerto; Dvorak Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”). Italian pianist Alessio Bax; Eugene Tzigane, a winner in the 2008 Solti Competition for conductors, is scheduled for the podium.
- Wednesday, July 10 at 8:00: Grant Park Pops, program TBA. Jeff Tyzik, conductor.
- Friday, July 12 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, July 13 at 8 p.m.:“Caminos del Inka,” featuring works by Daniel Alomía Robles, Gabriela Lena Frank, Osvaldo Golijov and Ary Barroso. Grant Park Music Festival principal players Mary Stolper, flute and Walter Haman, cello; Miguel Harth-Bedoya, conductor.
- Wednesday, July 17 at 6:30: Rodgers and Hammerstein Celebration, songs from “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” “The King and I,” “Carousel” and “The Sound of Music.” Broadway star soprano Rebecca Luker joins Doug LaBrecque, tenor and William Michals, baritone; Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, Christopher Bell, conductor.
- Friday, July 19 at 6:30; Saturday, July 20 at 7:30: Berlioz “King Lear” Overture; Martin Concerto for Seven Winds; Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 (“Organ Symphony”). Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer, current music director of the Utah Symphony, is scheduled to lead the orchestra.
- Wednesday, July 24 at 6:30: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1; Shostakovich Symphony No. 5. Russian-born American pianist Kirill Gerstein, who is a winner of Michigan’s Gilmore Artist Award, is scheduled to solo, with Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu at the start of a two-week residency.
- Friday, July 26 at 6:30; Saturday, July 27 at 7:30: Sibelius “Pohjola’s Daughter”; Glazunov Symphony No. 4; Sibelius Violin Concerto. Karen Gomyo, violin; Hannu Lintu, conductor.
- Wednesday, July 31 at 6:30: Bruckner Symphony No. 2. Carlos Kalmar, conductor.
- Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 6:30: Piazzolla (arr. Castagna) “Milongón Festivo”; Ginastera “Pampeana No. 3″; Sierra ”Concerto for Saxophones; Villa-Lobos “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 7.” James Carter, saxophones; Carlos Kalmar, conductor.
- Friday, Aug. 9 at 6:30; Saturday, Aug. 10 at 7:30: Messiaen “Les offrandes oubliées”; MacMillan “Confessions of Isobel Gowdie”; Schubert Mass in E-Flat Major. Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus; Carlos Kalmar, conductor; Christopher Bell, chorus director; artists from the Lyric Opera’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center.
- Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 6:30: Shchedrin “The Naughty Limericks”; Borodin Symphony No. 2; Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. Valentina Lisitsa, piano; Carlos Kalmar, conductor.
- Friday, Aug. 16 at 6:30; Saturday, Aug. 17 at 7:30: Adams “Black Gondola”; Adams “Harmonium”; Stravinsky “The Rite of Spring.” Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus; Carlos Kalmar, conductor; Donald Nally, guest chorus director.
Captions and credits: Home page and top: Grant Park Music Festival principal conductor Carlos Kalmar. At right, descending: Grant Park Music Festival principal conductor Carlos Kalmar (Festival photos by Norman Timonera) Jazz artist James Carter. (Vincent Soyez) Composer Qigang Chen. (2008 Beijing Olympic Games) Violinist Stefan Jackiw. (Opus 3 Artists) Chicago Children’s Choir (Courtesy www.ccchoir.org) Pianist Alessio Bax. (Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco) Broadway star Rebecca Luker. Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu. (Photo by Kaapo Kamu) Pianist Valentina Lisitsa. Below: Crowds gather beneath the billowing Frank Gehry-designed proscenium. (Photo by Patrick Pyszka)