The International Chamber Artists Trio performed by lamplight in the Belden-Stratford lobby Sunday, giving the hour-long concert the intimate feel of a salon performance. The hotel arranged the lobby’s couches and armchairs into a semi-formal, but comfortable, concert setting for Astor Piazzolla’s Tango Suite and Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70, subtitled “Ghost.”
Violinist Elizabeth Choi opened with the Suite’s twisting melody, followed in kind by pianist Patrick Godon and cellist Jocelyn Butler. The cello melodies throughout the Andante were well-served by Butler’s sweet tone. Though the trio gave the Suite a technically proficient reading through Piazzolla’s demanding rhythms, the third movement finally carried the energy that seemed absent during the first.
Roosevelt University’s Ganz Hall provided the intimate setting Tuesday evening for a dynamic performance by Italy’s Quintetto Bottesini in a concert sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago. Since 2006, the formidable ensemble has been dedicated to chamber music written or arranged for the violin-viola-cello-bass-piano combination. The group showcased two such works, respectively: the Quintet in C Minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) by Astor Piazzolla.
I have to admit, it sometimes makes me a little nervous when a conductor steps on stage without a score. There’s enough that can go awry when 60+ musicians congregate in one place, without the conductor missing an entrance, miscuing the trombones, or taking a movement too fast.
But then there are the rare instances when a conductor inhabits a composer’s musical realm so intuitively and completely that having the notes to read would be superfluous. That was, without equivocation, the case with Jane Glover as she led the Music of the Baroque in a Mozart concert on Sunday in Evanston’s First United Methodist Church.
If I do not hear another performance of Mozart all season, I will be content to have last night’s performance of the Requiem from the Harris Theater singing in my head. Given a piece of such mythic baggage, written by one of the most mythologized composers in Western music, I suppose a performer’s urge to jump in and blow the roof off is tremendous, if only to live up to the hype.
More than any other art form, music can be a salve that heals the soul in times of need and offers a glimpse of a brighter tomorrow. In a Martin Luther King Day concert filled with symbolism, the Chicago Sinfonietta gave its Orchestra Hall audience both of those things (and more) in an outstanding performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the composer’s ode to freedom and to the brotherhood of humanity.
The music of Richard Wagner comes with plenty of problems and ifs. Depending on whom you talk to, you might hear it’s too long or boring, or weird, or genocide-inducing. One stigma less frequently associated with it is that it’s exceptionally difficult to play, and it was of that stigma I was most reminded at Saturday night’s Illinois Philharmonic Concert.
Singing in the West Loop? Nope, not Lyric this time! This afternoon the St. Charles Singers put on a splendid concert at Old St. Pat’s. I’m not much of a crier or much of a churchgoer, but this concert made me one of each. The moving program was a sampling of works from Mozart’s early years.
On an episode of the BBC’s hit show “QI,” host Stephen Fry remarks, “There’s something so camp about modern German.” Well, there’s also something so camp about woodwind quintet music, so it’s no surprise five modern Germans put on a superlative woodwind quintet concert last night. (I mean, seriously, how can a group called the Philharmonisches Bläserquintett Berlin NOT be at home with coquettish music?)
Crossover concerts that meld different kinds of music often walk a fine line between accessibility and authenticity. At one extreme, they’re watered-down versions of the original that offend the purists and lose some of the qualities that made a particular genre of music attractive in the first place. At their best, audiences come for one reason, and have their horizons opened up to new experiences and other types of music.
Contempo’s recent performance at the Harris Theater, “Double-Bill: Where Jazz and Contemporary Music Intersect,” falls mostly into the latter category, combining three recently-composed pieces by Shawn Brogan Allison, Bernard Rands, and Yu-Hui Chang with a piano-sax jazz set by Chris Potter and Kenny Werner.
It’s hard to believe that almost a century has gone by since the riotous premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in 1913. Generations of children have grown up watching Fantasia, and the music has long since been established as a staple of concert programs. Nevertheless, a standout performance has the potential to bring the house down, as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra did with David Robertson this past weekend.