Fall classical music preview: Chicago highlights 2023 – Chicago Sun-Times

When Liza Malamut, who is beginning her second season as the Newberry Consort’s artistic director, got a query from Haymarket Opera Company leaders about a possible collaboration in 2023-24, she jumped at the chance.

The result is an unusual mini-festival focused on two accomplished but now largely forgotten women composers from the 17th century: Francesca Caccini, a member of the Italian Medici court, and Sophie Elisabeth, believed to the first woman to have music published in Germany.

It will be the first time the two nationally known early-music organizations, both committed to the use of original instruments and historically informed performance practices, have partnered.

“We’re promoting and uplifting each other’s groups, because that’s something we’re finding out is important to both of us,” Malamut said. 

From Sept. 22-24, the Newberry will present “In the Castle of the Moon: The Music of Sophie Elisabeth, the Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg” at three locations in Chicago and Evanston. The program will feature an assortment of Elisabeth’s works alongside those of her mentors like Heinrich Schütz and William Brade and some of her contemporaries. (Visit newberryconsort.org

Haymarket will stage Caccini’s “La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina (The Liberation of Ruggiero from the Island of Alcina)” Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in DePaul University’s Jarvis Opera Hall, 800 W. Belden. Premiered in 1625 in Florence, the work is believed to be the oldest surviving opera by a woman composer. (Visit haymarketopera.org/caccini)

The other important connection between these two presentations is their mutual use of a quartet of Newberry musicians who play the sackbut (a name derived from old French). The instrument is a predecessor to the trombone that was in use during the Renaissance and baroque eras. 

“It’s smaller,” said Malamut. “It has a more conical bell. The mouthpiece looks a little bit different. It has a flat rim. But the fundamentals of the instrument are exactly the same now as it was then.” 

She ought to know. The Newberry leader is a sackbut player who regularly appears with early-music ensembles across the country. She will join Paul Von Hoff, who is also based in Chicago, as well as players from Minneapolis and Rochester, New York, in the foursome.

“It’s something that worked out really well,” Malamut said of the Haymarket collaboration, “both with the programming itself, the two women composers, and then the personnel that needed to be shared.”

Here is a look at 10 more classical music events this fall:

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Requiem, Sept. 17, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, and Sept. 18, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, Music of the Baroque, Jane Glover, conductor (visit baroque.org).

Mozart’s final composition is an essential inclusion on any list of the great choral works of all time. Glover, a respected Mozart scholar and frequent conductor of his works, leads this pair of concerts. Of special note, the second of the two is the Chicago-based chamber orchestra’s first regular-series appearance in Symphony Center since 2000. 

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, conductor. Sept. 21-23 and 26 and Sept. 28-30, Symphony Center (visit cso.org).

Muti might have stepped down as music director at the end of the 2022-23 season, but he still plays a prominent role in the CSO’s 2023-24 season with his new title of music director emeritus for life. In addition to leading two tours with the orchestra this season, he brings his star appeal and artistic heft to the opening sets of concerts in its subscription series, including leading the world premiere of Philip Glass’ “The Triumph of the Octagon.”

“The Flying Dutchman” (shown here in the Canadian Opera Company’s 2022 production) will be staged at Lyric Opera starting Sept. 23.

Michael Cooper/Canadian Opera Company

  • Richard Wagner, “The Flying Dutchman,” Sept. 23 and 27 and Oct. 1, 4 and 7, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Enrique Mazzola, conductor, Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker (visit lyricopera.org).

This story of a ghost ship captain cursed to ply the seas forever is one of Wagner’s earliest and most popular works. This version, staged by revisionist director Christopher Alden, premiered in 1996 at the Canadian Opera Company. Taking the title role is Polish bass-baritone Tomasz Konieczny, who also starred in the company’s 2015 production of “Wozzeck.”

  • David Lang, “composition as explanation,” Eighth Blackbird, Sept. 28-30, Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis (visit courttheatre.org), University of Chicago Presents and Court, co-presenters.

Lang, a New York composer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2008, is renowned for his highly original form and style-defying creations. The six members of this Chicago-based contemporary-music ensemble serve as both actors and musicians in this work, which is based on Gertrude Stein’s essay of the same name and blurs the worlds of music and theater. The ensemble presented the world premiere in February 2022 at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Alarm Will Sound.

  • Donnacha Dennehy, “Land of Winter,” Alarm Will Sound, Oct. 6, Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th, University of Chicago (visit chicagopresents.uchicago.edu).

This 20-member ensemble, founded at the Eastman School of Music in 1996, has devoted itself to brash experimentation and bending boundaries. The group will present the American premiere of the Irish composer’s hourlong, 12-section “Land of Winter,” which it debuted in Germany in 2022. According to the composer’s accompanying notes, the work deals with the play “between light and time” and the demarcation of the seasons.

  • Bass-baritone ab, Oct. 14, Chicago Philharmonic, Scott Speck, conductor, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph (visit chicagophilharmonic.org).

After seeing his star rise for more than a decade, the singer made his lauded leading role debut in April in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Terence Blanchard’s opera “Champion.” For this concert accompanied by the Philharmonic, Green will sing arias from that work as well as Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” and more established operas by such composers as Verdi, Puccini and Wagner. 

Dinnerstein became something of a sensation in 2007, when Telarc released her self-funded recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and it shot to No. 1 on the classical charts. Since then, this ever-inquisitive artist has carved out a distinctive career path, gaining no shortage of honors along the way. For this program, she will present selections from two of three albums she recorded in her home during the COVID-19 shutdown by such past and present composers as François Couperin and Philip Glass.

Violinist Jennifer Koh.

  • “Bach and Beyond,” Jennifer Koh, violinist, Oct. 21, Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Music Institute of Chicago (Visit nicholsconcerthall.org).

The internationally known violin soloist works tirelessly to expand the repertoire for her instrument. Begun in 2009, Koh’s three-part “Bach and Beyond” project combines J.S. Bach’s famed solo sonatas and partitas with new solo violin works commissioned by her. The Glen Ellyn native and Music Institute alumna returns for this program, which will include John Harbison’s “For Violin Alone” and Bach’s Sonata No. 1 and Partita No. 2. 

  • Béla Bartók quartet cycle, Borromeo Quartet, Dec. 4-5, Guarneri Hall, 11 E. Adams (visit guarnerihall.org).

Guarneri Hall is marking its fifth anniversary with a season of offerings dubbed “chamber music made personal.” A highlight of the lineup is this two-evening presentation of Bartók’s six string quartets, a set written in 1909-39 that ranks alongside those of Beethoven and Shostakovich. Taking on these challenging works is the well-regarded Borromeo, which has served as ensemble-in-residence at the New England Conservatory of Music since 1992.

  • Dmitri Shostakovich, “The Nose,” Dec. 8 and 10, Chicago Opera Theater, Harris Theater, Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor (visit chicagooperatheater.org).

Shostakovich’s gritty 1934 opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” has gradually become part of the standard repertoire after being banned in the composer’s native Russin for nearly 30 years. Though by far the best known, it is not his only work in the form. His first opera, a 1927-28 adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose,” is getting increasing attention as well, including this production overseen by famed director Francesca Zambello. 

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