Grant Park Music Festival Announces Free Summer Concert Plans

February 18, 2010

First free performance for the 76th season scheduled for June 16, 2010.

The Grant Park Music Festival on Wednesday announced the programming for its 76th summer of free classical concerts, which this year begins June 16 at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

On July 15, the festival also will mark the 10th anniversary season of Carlos Kalmar as its principal conductor with a festive program of Berlioz, Vivaldi and Respighi. The popular Kalmar will lead nine of 20 programs this summer with his excellent colleague, chorus director Christopher Bell, leading three and preparing the Grant Park Chorus for two others.

In the first season under executive director Elizabeth Hurley, programming remains as diverse and adventurous as it had been under her predecessor, James W. Palermo. Lesser heard music from Michael Tippett, John Adams, Paul Hindemith, Leo Sowerby and even Dvorak and Beethoven will share the stage with key repertoire works, although few of these are normally outdoor festival fare.

Major international guest artists will include violinist Christian Tetzlaff, pianist Horacio Gutierrez and bass-baritone John Relyea, who will make his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut this weekend in Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust.” Finland’s Elina Vahala will be the violin soloist for opening night.

Hans Graf, music director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, returns to guest conduct, as will Finland’s Hannu Lintu and Miguel Harth-Bedoya, music director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Xian Zhang, former associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic and a rising woman in a male-dominated field; Norway-based Pole Krzysztof Urbanski, just 27, and Julian Kuerti, current assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (and son of pianist Anton Kuerti) are among the intriguing conductor debuts.

Kalmar, who also has been music director of the Oregon Symphony since 2003, became principal conductor of the Grant Park Orchestra in 2000. This summer, he will present major works such as Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony on Aug. 4, Beethoven’s Mass in C Major on June 18-19, Dvorak’s Requiem on Aug. 13-14, an All-American program of Pulitzer Prize-winners June 25-26 (indoors at the Harris Theater, because of Taste of Chicago) and opera finales of Rossini and Mozart with singers from Lyric’s Ryan Center on Aug. 6-7. He will close the season Aug. 20-21 with Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” He also will lead the June 23 concert featuring the Grant Park debut of lounge revivalists Pink Martini.

Bell will conduct Tippett’s oratorio “A Child of Our Time” on July 23-24, featuring Relyea and Chicago-based soprano Jonita Lattimore; indoor a cappella choral concerts of French music at the Harris Theater on July 6 and 8 during Taste of Chicago, and the annual July 4 afternoon holiday concert.

Other choral programs are the Beethoven Mass in C along with Haydn’s “Te Deum” and Hindemith’s “Nobilissima Visione” Suite and the all-American program at the Harris that includes works by Aaron Copland, William Schuman and Leo Sowerby.

Harth-Bedoya will conduct a program July 7, co-produced with the Goodman Theatre and staged by Henry Godinez, based on a work by Eduardo Galeano, “Memoria del Fuego” (“Memory of Fire”), from Kalmar’s native Uruguay. The Galeano evening also will launch the Goodman’s 2010 Latino Theater Festival.

Polish music of Lutoslawski and contemporary composer Wojciech Kilar will be featured when Urbanski conducts June 30 with Krzysztof Jablonski of the Warsaw Chopin Academy as soloist in the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1. Kalmar will conduct a program with Malian kora player Toumani Diabate on Aug. 11. George Fenton will conduct his own 2007 Emmy Award-winning score to accompany a screening July 21 of the BBC documentary “Planet Earth.”

All concerts are free and open to the public with starting times generally at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, and 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Memberships in the Grant Park Orchestral Association, which support the not-for-profit festival and provide for reserved seating, start at $135 for the full season. The festival is presented jointly by the Chicago Park District, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and the Festival Association.

Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times