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Best picks for classical music and jazz in winter 2024


With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra away throughout January for its first European tour since COVID (yay!), the first month of the year might already be a sleepy one on this list. Become practically catatonic.

Not so in 2024! January and the following months will drag you from one job to another. Here are a few suggestions:

Symphony Center season: The weather may be cold, but the downtown venue where the jazz series is celebrating its 30th anniversary is warm this winter. I shyly struggle to highlight just a few offerings – Makaya McCraven and Meshell Ndegeocello (performing together), Ron Carter, Christian McBride, Eliades Ochoa, Herbie Hancock, and that’s a tall order when the Blue Note anniversary celebration arrives in a few months. relative to each other. All at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., tickets and information at: cso.org:

New episode, New Genus: Guitarist Jeff Parker is widely praised for his contributions to creative music and the influential post-rock band Tortoise. Even so, only recently has the Chicago expatriate refocused on his own compositions. Its main vehicle: New Breed (“Suite for Max Brown,” 2020), a flexibly lined-up ensemble capable of rearranging listeners’ heartstrings with bone-deep funk (on their self-titled debut album in 2016) or assembling elaborate rhythms into soporific trance music ) . The band returns to Chicago for the first time since the 2022 Pitchfork Festival. “Jeff Parker & The New Breed,” Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m., University of Chicago Logan Center Performance Hall, 915 E. 60th St.; tickets are $40, $20 for patrons under 35 and $10 for students; chicagopresentations.uchicago.edu

Tugging the heartstrings: Composer and librettist Huang Ruo’s “The Book of Mountains and Seas” has enjoyed something few contemporary operas have done since its 2021 premiere: several repeat performances. From the splinters it’s easy to see why can be viewed online. Huang’s opera explores B.C. through the dazzling puppets of MacArthur’s “genius” Basil Twist. It interprets traditional Chinese myths from the 4th-century collection of the same name. Although it hosts the Chicago Opera Theater and the Chicago International Marionette Theater Festival, Ars Nova Copenhagen provides the onstage chorus rather than the company’s usual troupe of Chicago freelancers. “The Book of Mountains and Seas” Jan. 26-28 at Studebaker Theatre, 410 S. Michigan Ave., tickets $45-$100, chicagooperaeater.org

A German elegy: No, not Brahms’ – this is Heinrich Schütz’s “Musikalische Exequien”. The early Baroque composer is believed to be the first to compose a requiem mass in his native language, having written it for the funeral of a royal patron. But death was all around Schütz at that time: he wrote “Musikalische Exequien” in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War and devastating plague epidemics. The Los Angeles Master Choir, directed by Peter Sellars, sings, acts and dances Schütz’s score in “Music to Accompany a Separation,” a staged reflection on collective pain. “Music to Accompany the Departure,” 7:30 p.m., Feb. 9, Harris Music and Dance Theatre, 205 E. Randolph St.; tickets $20-$105; harristheaterchicago.org

“Women Out of Time”: Chicago Jazz Philharmonic director Orbert Davis is the undisputed master of the evening-long tribute. The latest pays tribute to three jazz greats: Lil Hardin Armstrong, Mary Lou Williams and Nina Simone. The composition, realized by vocalist Dee Alexander, pianist Bethany Pickens, violinist Zara Zaharieva and the chamber music ensemble of the Philharmonic Orchestra, is guided by references to the works of the trio. 7 p.m. Feb. 10, Kehrein Center for the Arts, 5628 W. Washington Blvd.; tickets are $1 or suggested donation; chicagojazzphilharmonic.org

Jazz singer Dee Alexander, who is at home in Chicago in 2020, will perform with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic in February.
Chicago composer Bernard Rands with CSO in Orchestra Hall at the Symphony Center on November 1, 2019.

Happy birthday, Bernard Rands: The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer from Chicago will be giving a big concert in March ’90. Guarneri Hall celebrates with this two-part riff on Rands’ catalogue, interspersed with music inspired or inspired by himself. The top chamber musicians on both lists include the Terra String Quartet, Nois, and cellist Alexander Hersh, who premiered a new solo cello work by Rands on the Saturday show. “Rands at 90,” March 8 at 6:30 p.m. and March 9 at 2 p.m., Guarneri Hall, 11 E. Adams St., 3rd Floor; tickets $40 general admission, $10 student; guarnerihal.org

Soloists forward: Every piece on Chicago Sinfonietta’s March program is a first in some sense: a Chicago premiere (the Florence Price concert overture), a Chicago debut (by violin great Amaryn Olmeda), and a Sinfonietta premiere (Francis Poulenc’s “Les biches” suite from his ballet)”). Chief among the firsts is the premiere anywhere of Brazilian American composer Clarice Assad’s new work for voice and orchestra, with the composer himself singing. The following week, Chicago Symphony principal flutist Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson pilots Lowell Liebermann’s Flute Concerto No. 2, the first of two commissioned concertos coming to the CSO this season. (Christopher Theofanidis’ third “Indigo Heaven” for clarinetist Stephen Williamson has been postponed until next season.) The concert, conducted by the great Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, also features the sparkling soprano Ying Fang in Mahler 4.

  • “Echo” with the Chicago Sinfonietta on March 15 at 7:30 p.m. at North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, and March 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Auditorium Theater, at 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive ; tickets $27-$67, with $5 and $10 tickets available four weeks before the concert; chicagosinfonietta.org
  • Mahler 4 with Chicago Symphony, March 21 and 23 at 7:30 p.m., March 24 at 3 p.m., Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; tickets $39-$250; cso.org

Haymarket’s heyday continues: You thought “La liberazione di Ruggiero” and “L’amant anonyme” were deep cuts? Try deeper. This March, the baroque opera company is staging Maria Margherita Grimani’s “La decollazione di San Giovanni Battista” (The Beheading of John the Baptist), convincingly billed as the premiere of the modern era. Mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron stars in the title role, with soprano Kristin Knutson as Salome and bass-baritone Christian Pursell as Herod. “The Beheading of John the Baptist,” March 22, 19:30, DePaul University Gannon Concert Hall; ticket price is on TBD and on sale in January; haymarketopera.org

“STRENGTH!”: Presenters from the Chicago Symphony to Elastic Arts offered excerpts from this opera, an abolitionist fantasy set in the liminal space of a prison waiting room. Here’s your chance to experience the work from start to finish, co-written by artist Anna Martine Whitehead, musical director Ayanna Woods, co-composers Angel Bat Dawid and Phillip Armstrong, and others. “POWER! an opera in three acts,” 7:30 p.m., March 28-30, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Edlis Neeson Theatre, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; $30 general admission, $10 student; Visit mcachicago.org

Hannah Edgar is a freelance critic.

The Rubin Institute of Music Criticism helps fund our classical music coverage. The Chicago Tribune retains editorial control over assignments and content.


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