Grant Park Music Festival to offer richly varied lineup with several choral masterworks

March 03, 2011

A look at the 2011 Grant Park Music Festival Season

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Carlos Kalmar will open the Grant Park Music Festival's 77th season June 15 with Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" and Ravel's Concerto in G.

The Grant Park Music Festival is still in the hunt for a new executive director but it will be business as usual this summer at the city’s free lakefront music series.

Carlos Kalmar will begin his second decade as principal conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival with another intriguing range of repertoire, making Chicago’s lakefront concerts the ticket of choice for summer classical audiences.

Perhaps the most striking program is slated for August 12 and 13 when Kalmar will lead performances of Franz Schmidt’s The Book of Seven Seals. With four soloists and large chorus, Schmidt’s sprawling work is considered his masterpiece and rarely performed, especially in the U.S.

The Grant Park season will open June 15 in more populist fashion with Kalmer conducting the Grant Park Orchestra in Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, coupled with Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, with Jean-Philippe Collard as soloist.

The acclaimed Grant Park Chorus will be stage center the second week in a program offering two more choral rarities—Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 2 Lobgesang (Song of Praise).

Kalmar will also lead performances of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (July 1 and 2), prefaced by Lutoslawski’s Musique funebre; Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, with Jennifer Koh as soloist in Britten’s Violin Concerto (August 3); and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 (August 17).

Other Kalmar-led nights include Billy Childs’ Violin Concerto with jazz violinist Regina Carter (June 22); a program of Latin works for orchestra (June 24 and 25) and an evening of Austrian waltzes and marches (August 10). Kalmar will close the festival’s season August 19 and 20 with performances of Verdi’s Requiem.

Krzysztof Penderecki

The most anticipated guest conductor this summer will likely be Krzysztof Penderecki. The celebrated 77-year-old Polish composer will conduct the orchestra July 15 and 16 in Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and his own Concerto Grosso No. 1 for Three Cellos and Orchestra.

Hannu Lintu, who made a successful debut last year will lead two programs this summer. The Finnish conductor will direct music of Shchedrin and Prokofiev July 27 and a striking choral program July 29 and 30, with Sibelius’s epic Kullervo symphony and Rachmaninoff’s Spring.

Marking his tenth season as Grant Park Chorus director Christopher Bell will conduct chorus and orchestra in Faure’s Requiem and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms July 22 and 23 as well as leading the chorus in an a cappella program of American music June 28 and 30 at the Harris Theater.

Alondra de la Parra will make her Grant Park debut July 8 and 9 leading music of Marquez, Rodrigo and Dvorak with guitar soloist David Russell.

Also making festival podium debuts will be Andrew Grams in music of Borodin, Copland and Tchaikovsky (July 6), and Kwame Ryan with works of Liebermann, Ravel and Schumann (July 20).

There will also be a concert of music from Broadway musicals, an opera night featuring the young singers of the Lyric Opera’s Ryan Opera Center, and the traditional Independence Day program.