October 1, 2006

Fall season dishes up full servings of Bach, Brahms

Kudos to all those who noticed the three glaring errors in last week’s coverage of classical music goings-on about town. First, the Maroon printed the 2005-2006 season of Chicago Presents instead of this year’s. Second, the picture of the Pacifica Quartet was seriously outdated, featuring only two out four current members of the quartet. Lastly, the “feed your oh-so bourgeois ears” article focused on highlights from the last year’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s season. But for those of you still committed to living in the past, those errors may have been welcome comfort. It’s a harsh reality, I know: The year is 2006, and it’s fall already.

In the interest of preparing you for the difficulties of the present moment, I’ve scrounged around for the best classical music being offered this quarter both at the CSO and on campus.

At the CSO:

From October 5-7, Paavo Järvi conducts Dmitri Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony. This is the first symphony that Shostakovich wrote after he was denounced in 1948 for the aesthetico-cultural crime of Formalism. So after the heady intellectualism of the 8th symphony and the slapstick comedy of the 9th comes a work that is plainly brutal. Enjoy.

On October 25th, the CSO hosts a trio of some of the best chamber musicians around: Yefim Bronfman on piano, Gil Shaham on violin, and Truls Mørk on cello. You may remember Mr. Mørk from last season (now don’t get confused) at Mandel Hall, when he played to a extremely full and excited house. If you missed him last year, now’s your chance to see him. The trio will play Shostakovich’s indescribably awesome op. 67, the Piano Trio no. 2 in E minor, among other pieces which lend themselves less to hyperbole.

On November 1-2 as well as the 4th, Classical Music’s new sweetheart David Robertson will conduct the CSO in Brahms’s last symphony (my personal favorite of the four). This will no doubt be one of the best concerts of the year down at Symphony Hall. The CSO does Brahms better than any other American orchestra, and Robertson is still young and idealistic, so it shouldn’t be just tossed off like so many Haydn Quartets.

There’s plenty more to hear at the CSO this fall, including two more Brahms Symphonies, an Anne-Sophie Mutter recital and two Mahler symphonies. But the three concerts above seem to me to be the best of the best. More information is available at

At Mandel Hall:

It’s surprising to me that the professional concert series doesn’t generate more buzz on campus. Some of the best ensembles and performers in the world come to Hyde Park of all places, and in my humble opinion, it’s buzzworthy:

On October 22, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is coming to Mandel Hall. This is one of the absolute finest ensembles of its kind in the world and the University has struck a three-concert-a-year deal with these people. The first concert in the second year of their residency will feature the Bach D minor double (Suzuki anyone?) and the Ravel Piano Concerto in G. We were going to hear the Bach C minor double for oboe and violin (now there’s a piece) but the oboist is on medical leave.

On October 27, the Florestan Trio will play Shostakovich, Mozart, and Saint-Saens. If you miss the Shostakovich trio on the 25th, you can hear it here on campus. If you really loved it on the 25th, come hear it again! I will most assuredly be at both performances.

And now for the crown jewel of the fall quarter musical offerings: The Emerson String Quartet is scheduled for November 10. Unfortunately, violinist Lawrence Dutton is getting rotator cuff surgery, and won’t be joining the quartet. Instead, pianist Wu Han will step up and treat us to the Brahms Piano Quartet in G Minor.

For all concerts at Mandel Hall, call (773) 702-8068 for details and tickets. I should mention that Chicago Presents has begun a new program this season, whereby U of C students can purchase an unlimited quarterly pass for $30. Otherwise, the student price is $11 for most concerts. More information is available at