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The Haymarket Opera Company Orchestra | SUPPLIED PHOTO

Chicago’s classical music spring season will hit very high notes

SHARE Chicago’s classical music spring season will hit very high notes
SHARE Chicago’s classical music spring season will hit very high notes

A performance of a baroque oratorio by anyone not named George Frideric Handel is a rare and welcome occurrence anywhere. To have two within a few months of each other during Chicago’s spring classical-music season is nothing short of an embarrassment of riches.

First comes “Agar et Ismaele esiliati (The Exile of Hagar and Ishmael),” a 1683 oratorio written by Italian composer Alessandro Scarlatti at a time when opera was formally banned in Rome by Pope Innocent XI. This opera-in-all-but-name, based on Chapter 21 from Genesis, will be presented by four soloists and a period-instrument ensemble under the auspices of the Haymarket Opera Company. Performances – believed to be the first ever in Chicago – will take place March 3 in the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington, and March 4 in the Church of the Atonement, 5749 N. Kenmore, (haymarketopera.org)

The second oratorio will be Georg Philipp Telemann’s “The Day of Judgment” (1762), a vivid evocation of thunder, devastation and God’s celestial glory. Music director Jane Glover and the Music of the Baroque Orchestra and Chorus, which released the first-ever recording of this work in 1995, will present two performances marking the 250th anniversary of the death of this baroque great. They are set for May 14 in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, and May 15 in the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, (visit baroque.org).

Here is a look at 10 other notable classical events coming up in the spring season:

March 3, Stile Antico, University of Chicago Presents, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn, (visit tickets.uchicago.edu). This 12-member British vocal ensemble specializes in music of the Renaissance. For its Chicago debut, the conductorless ensemble will present “In a Strange Land: Elizabethan Composers in Exile,” a imaginative program focused on Catholic composers like John Dowland and William Byrd who were forced to flee England because of religious persecution.

Esa-Pekka Salonen | PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

Esa-Pekka Salonen | PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

March 4 and 7, Leila Josefowicz, violinist, and March 9-11, Yo-Yo Ma, cellist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan, (visit cso.org). Esa-Pekka Salonen, one of the world’s most celebrated composers and conductors, returns for two weeks of concerts with the CSO. Programs include the world premiere of his much-anticipated Cello Concerto and performances of two major works by John Adams as part of the worldwide celebration of the composer’s 70th birthday.

March 9, Placido Domingo, tenor, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker (visit lyricopera.org). Few if any opera singers in history can match the extraordinary longevity and accomplishments of Domingo, whose performing career shows no signs of slowing down. He will join soprano Ailyn Pérez, tenor Michael Spyres, conductor Eugene Kohn and the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Chorus for this special concert, which will include Act 2 of “La Traviata” and a line-up of popular arias and duets.

March 11, Spektral Quartet, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago, (visit mcachicago.org). Audience members can come and go as the Chicago-based quartet offers a rare performance of Morton Feldman’s String Quartet No. 2 (1983), an entrancing if daunting, six-hour work that deliberately pushes the physical limits of the musicians and the attention spans of its listeners. The event is in conjunction with the exhibition, “Merce Cunningham: Common Time.”

March 24 and 26, “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” Lyric Unlimited, Harris Theater, (lyricopera.org/yardbird). In Daniel Schnyder’s jazz-infused chamber opera, which premiered in 2015 in Philadelphia and has quickly gained popularity, famed saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker reflects back on a life of unparalleled musical innovations and tortured personal struggles. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee sings the title role in this 90-minute work, and Kelly Kuo, artistic director of the Oregon Mozart Players, leads an accompanying 16-piece orchestra.

April 23, Imogen Cooper, pianist, Jane Glover, conductor, Music of the Baroque, North Shore Center, April 24, Harris Theater, (baroque.org) Cooper is a superb English pianist who remains too little known in the United States. When she and Glover last teamed up for a Music of the Baroque program in 2015, it turned out to be one of the high points of the season. They are back again in an appealing Classical-era line-up pairing the music of Mozart and Haydn.

May 4-6 and 9 and May 11-13, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, conductor, Orchestra Hall (cso.org). In its September issue, BBC Music Magazine presented a top 20 list of the greatest symphonies in history as voted by more than 150 international conductors, and all four of Johannes Brahms’ symphonies made the cut. Muti and the CSO will present the complete set of these ever-popular masterworks during these two back-to-back programs.

May 12, Marcus Roberts Trio, Chicago Sinfonietta, Wentz Concert Hall, North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, and May 15, Orchestra Hall, (chicagosinfonietta.org). The acclaimed jazz pianist and his combo are set to bring a fresh, improvisatory flair to the Sinfonietta’s take on George Gershwin’s ever-popular “Rhapsody in Blue.” Also on the program, titled “Rightness in the Rhythm,” is the Overture from Scott Joplin’s opera, “Treemonisha,” which was completed in 1911 but not performed in its entirety until 1972.

Inspired by the Depression-era photographs of Walker Evans and James Agee’s book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” Aaron Copland’s 1954 opera focuses on a 1930s Midwestern farm family. | COURTESY NORTHWESTERN OPERA THEATER

Inspired by the Depression-era photographs of Walker Evans and James Agee’s book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” Aaron Copland’s 1954 opera focuses on a 1930s Midwestern farm family. | COURTESY NORTHWESTERN OPERA THEATER

May 18-21, “The Tender Land,” Northwestern University Opera Theater, Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston, (concertsatbienen.org). Inspired by the Depression-era photographs of Walker Evans and James Agee’s book, “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” Aaron Copland’s 1954 opera focuses on a 1930s Midwestern farm family. Virginia Opera principal conductor and artistic adviser Adam Turner will lead Northwestern’s production, and the school’s director of opera, Michael Ehrman, will oversee the staging.

May 28, Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra and Contemporary Music Ensemble, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph, (concertsatbienen.org). French-born composer Edgard Varèse, who has been called the “father of electronic music,” inspired a range of musicians in the 1960s and ‘70s, including guitarist and composer Frank Zappa. This free concert examines the ties between these two musical visionaries and features works by each, including Zappa’s “Dog Breath Variations/Uncle Meat” and Varèse’s “Ionisation” and “Amériques.”

Kyle MacMillan is a local freelance writer.

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