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It’s always sunny in Chicago


Here’s the best part of 2023? 2024 got me excited And 2033.

The outlook for the performing arts, still limping after the pandemic, is not rosy. But then it is heard that young musicians, with their lives ahead of them, throw themselves into the enthusiastic sets of the Chicago Jazz Festival and throw a flare into the uncertain darkness of the future. Recently, 24-year-old pianist Jahari Stampley, born and raised in Austin, made national headlines by winning the Herbie Hancock Competition for young artists. And at the age of 24, someone else’s name is already on all our lips and on this list.

Maybe not much in the grand scheme of things. Still: Seeing these up-and-comers seize their moment reminds me that the sun also rises. About what, who knows? But it will rise.

Classical music in 2023 hit the silver screenAgain! – and there’s no shortage of wonders locally. Lyric Opera delivered one of the strongest duos of the post-shutdown era with overlapping runs of “The Daughter of the Regiment” and “Jenůfa,” and the musical chairs at the Chicago Opera Theater did not stop the company from delivering a standout season this season. spring.

This was also the year that the fight for the Chicago Symphony throne began in earnest. Two of the most serious contenders joining this year’s list arrived before former music director Riccardo Muti’s tuxedo tails swept 220 Southern Michigan (officially whatever). But with former New York Philharmonic boss Jaap van Zweden scheduled to lead the orchestra’s first international concert excluding Muti, he’s starting to look like a more sensible leader than ever – not my cup of chabut maybe yours.

Here are the “best” of 2023, arranged more or less chronologically:

Lightning really struck twice during the Finnish phenomenon Klaus Mäkela return will lead the CSO on February 16-18, following the enthusiastically received “Firebird” two seasons ago. He repeated his winning formula, consisting of one contemporary work (Jimmy López Bellido’s dazzling retelling of the Aino myth from Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala) and two repertory works, including the vital, exuberant Mahler 5.

Opera lovers were spoiled for choice on the last weekend of March, when both Lyric Opera and Chicago Opera Theater announced their long-awaited commissions. But where “Proximity” (pseudonym “Arne Duncan: The Opera”) failed at COT’s Lyric “The Life of Alan Turing’s Death(s)” (March 23 and 25) rose. Fantastic, evocative and subtle, this operatic account The work of the persecuted English polymath was a mastery of stage synchronicity by composer Justine F. Chen, librettist David Simpatico, and scenic designer Benjamin Olsen. Companies all over the world have to be clamoring to produce this.

ongoing partnership between Third Coast Percussion And The Art of Movement Street dancers are the gift that keeps on giving. Their refreshing, touching Harris Theater showOn May 2, I had the feeling that he was being deified.

This should be a draw: bassist Christian McBride’s hot New Chin, Appears in Constellation On March 23 and the saxophonist Quartet by Walter Smith III -most Chicago Jazz Festival In the second of these, pianist Sullivan Fortner came first among equals; His new album “Solo Game”, released last month, is just one example of his keyboard genius.

While we’re on the subject of the Chicago Jazz Festival, best comeback: Singer Billy Valentine’s Day He toured with “The Wiz,” cracked the hit charts with “Money’s Too Tight (to Mention)” (recorded with his brother John in 1982) and composed prolifically, if quietly, as a Hollywood songwriter for decades. However, the seventy-year-old artist wants to spend his last episode on stage. The heart-pounding Sept. 3 stage at the Pritzker Pavilion was the festival’s penultimate show and one of its inevitable delights.

Another tie? Huh. cellist Zlatomir Mushroom On July 26, he presented a deeply thoughtful Elgar concerto with the Grant Park Festival Orchestra; Not a single nuance was lost at Pritzker Pavilion. (That program also included a kaleidoscopic performance of Chicago-educated composer William Dawson’s little-heard 1934 “Negro People’s Symphony.”) A few months later, Conrad Tao He returned to his hometown to leave everything that would happen there great review Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F (October 19-24).

Pianist in the last hour of September 23 Kenny Barron He found himself playing in near-darkness when the lights above the Rockefeller Chapel went out on the midnight stage. Hyde Park Jazz Festival. Barron didn’t miss a beat. It would have been a performance to remember anyway, but HE? It was the church.

members impostors (“Impostors,” in german) was in and out of town for two very quick gigs: October 6 at Constellation and October 8 at Hungry Brain; the second with Chicago musicians Joshua Abrams, Lia Kohl and Michael Zerang. But the hypercharged, seemingly telepathic mix of modularly assembled improvisation and composition endures for some time.

Samara Joy and her band opened the 30th season of Symphony Center Jazz in Chicago on October 27, 2023.

I see three in this category. Joy of Samara jazz singer of his generation widest-profile Chicago appearance everThis was confirmed at the Symphony Center on October 27. And Lyric’s November standout owes a debt to two leading stars, both making their debut: Lisette Oropesa As Marie and Norwegian soprano in “The Regiment’s Daughter” from 4 to 25 November Lise Davidsen in the lead role “Cennuf” 12-26 November.

Just a week before the election Staatskapelle BerlinPoor health upon his arrival at the Symphony Center forced former CSO music director Daniel Barenboim to withdraw from what would likely be his last concert with the orchestra in Chicago. Greetings to all Jakub Hrůša, fresh off the Lyrics podium for “Jenůfa” and stepped out in the most spectacular way. The 28 November concert of two Brahms symphonies was not only stronger overall than Hrůša’s. Hırçın Mahler 9 in June but one of the most riveting performances at that venue all year. We hope to have sold Hrůša in Chicago.

Honorable mentions: Perfect one “Carmen” At Lyric Opera between March 11 and April 7; an NGO Chamber Concert at the Kehrein Arts Center on May 21, with road-ready ensemble harmony and a poignant, incisive world premiere by the NGO violist Max Raimi; mood lifter Tribute to Ramsey Lewis On June 22 at Millennium Park; and one “Daughter of the Regiment” It was pure happiness and froth at the Lyric, November 4-25.

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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