By now, the Chicago Tribune and Time Out Chicago have published their Fall Previews, showing you all the schmancy things our fair city has to offer you. But I have one not-so-meager advantage over them: Everything below is for a performer or presenter for whom I either have paid or will pay cash money to see. No press tickets here, no friend-of-so-and-so’s; no, I will be there on the strength of my own wallet’s buying power. So you can take my word for the likeliness of these shows’ awesomeness. Well, mostly. I’ve included Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts at the end, set apart because I can get into those without paying, which will hopefully make the separation clear enough.
INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE
Claire Chase, fresh off her triumph over Density 21.5 at the Lincoln Center Festival, will play the solo part in Pierre Boulez’s Memoriale (explosante-fixe…originel) in a program that smartly pairs chamber symphonies by Arnold Schoenberg (No. 1) and John Adams (Son of Chamber Symphony). This is the first time Adams’s score has been played here, and it’s joined by the premiere of the dazzling Dai Fujikura’s ICE, making it the second Fujikura premiere in Chicago in 2010 alone. It’s a hackneyed cliche, but I don’t care: If you hear one concert this fall, this should be the one.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten
Britten’s lovely Shakespearean opera gets star treatment with countertenor David Daniels as Oberon, and he’ll be performing in a new production, to boot. That production is by the Australian director Neil Armfield, and it was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera before going to the Canadian Opera Company. He’s directed several of Britten’s operas including Peter Grimes and Billy Budd.
AVALON STRING QUARTET
The best-kept secret among Chicago’s classical performers that I’m aware of, this nervy quartet is now in residence at Northern Illinois University, and they play with the focus and intensity that makes chamber music leap off the stage. This concert includes Britten’s Three Divertimenti, Verdi’s quartet, and a string quintet with violist Roger Chase on board for the ride. The spacious acoustics of Merit’s Anne and Howard Gottlieb Concert Hall make an attractive bonus.
MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE
Dido and Aeneas, by Henry Purcell
Few moments in classical-music history are as moving as Dido’s lament When I Am Laid in Earth, which set the stage for centuries’ worth of grief with its descending bass line, going down down down, and ponderous tread. Mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabó, having sung Mozart and more with Chicago Opera Theater, makes a welcome return as Dido.
GIDON KREMER AND KREMERATA BALTICA
Violinist Kremer hasn’t been heard from in these parts since at least 2005, I think. He makes a barnstorming return with the string orchestra that bears his name in November, though, with a program that leans heavily on minimalism in its second half. Works by Arvo Part and Michael Nyman share the bill with Lera Auerbach, as well as Bartok’s bumptious Divertimento and Schumann’s Cello Concerto, reconceived for violin. I can see that going either way.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESENTS
Tokyo String Quartet. October 1, 7:30pm. $35, $5 students.
Ani Aznivoorian and Lera Auerbach. November 5, 7:30pm. $35, $5 students.
Speaking of Lera Auerbach, her rich-veined music lands in town in a major way with these two Hyde Park concerts. The Tokyo String Quartet plays her Second Quartet “Primera luz,” while Auerbach herself joins cellist Aznivoorian for Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and her own 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano.
And now for some films….
The Gene Siskel Film Center starts a run of film noir this week that goes through December 14 titled More Than Night, and the knock-down greatest noir of them all, Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place from 1950, is up on October 29 and November 2. The full lineup is here, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (Joseph Cotten) and Charles Vidor’s Gilda (Rita Hayworth) all have WINNER stamped all over them.
That film-noir series screens concurrently with an all-Henri Clouzot series called Monsieur Noir, celebrating the man who gets under your Francophile skin in more unnerving ways than I’d care to admit. Diabolique (with the gorgeous Simone Signoret) is up September 18 and 20, and Paul Meurisse takes creepiness to places Hitchcock glimpsed every so often in that one.
Not to be outdone, the Music Box starts showing Psycho on October 8. “Mother isn’t quite herself today.”
The CSO concerts….
The concerts with Riccardo Muti will be spectacular, I have no doubt, but there’s loads of underperformed repertoire that should be equally rewarding in its own way. A week after Muti departs, Gil Shaham arrives to play and conduct Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s masterful, moving Concerto Funebre for violin and orchestra. Hartmann wrote the haunting elegy shortly after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, and its searing conclusion sounds like no other work. Barber’s Adagio for Strings continues the downtrodden them. October 22 and 23.
The next week, Jaap van Zweden returns for Shostakovich’s blistering Eighth Symphony, and the toccata-like third movement has some of the most thrilling trombone-writing you’ll hear. October 28 and 29. Proof, although old Evgeny appears to be conducting some Haydn Allegro:
The riches continue the following week when Michael Tilson Thomas brings an all-Copland program that features the rarely encountered “Organ” Symphony. Saint-Saens’s “Organ” Symphony blows the roof off the hall, but Copland wasn’t content with that. The harrowingly dissonant chords unleashed by the organ will take the paint off the walls. The consoling trumpet and English horn feature Quiet City and complete Appalachian Spring ballet complete this superb-looking program. November 4 and 5.