The best classical music concerts of summer by Doyle Armbrust

Chicago Symphony Mead Composers-in-Residence Elizabeth Ogonek and Samuel Adams came out swinging with their first season programming the MusicNOW contemporary music series and now deliver an installment that lives on the dark side of the street. Gorgeous, and ominous, numbers from composers Clara Iannotta, Hans Abrahamsen and Christopher Trapani make up this ruminative triptych, with the added incentive of vocal enchanter Tony Arnold on the marquee.

Read More

Top classical concerts this spring by Doyle Armbrust

MARCH 25-26
The Grammy-winning ensemble presents its latest production, "Ghostlight," as part of its residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art. One element that sets these new-music dynamos apart is imaginative staging, and with the darker corners of ritual, vengeance and death explored through the lenses of such compositional VIPs as David Lang, Ted Hearne, Bryce Dessner and David T. Little, "Ghostlight" is poised to sell out.

Read More

Top picks for the classical concerts this winter by Doyle Armbrust

Nov. 13
Those who love under-the-radar movie recommendations have their classical music equivalent this month with the obscenely skilled Arcanto Quartet. Though made up of established European heavyweights, the group hasn't yet broken through in the U.S. Bach's "Art of the Fugue," Schumann's String Quartet in A minor and Smetana's String Quartet No. 1 are on the bill for this "University of Chicago Presents" season highlight.

Read More


Landing the three-year gig as a Chicago Symphony Orchestra Mead composer-in-residence is a bit like winning "Top Chef," which is to say the intensified limelight may result in a tan and one's name abruptly enters a national conversation.

Landing the three-year gig as a Chicago Symphony Orchestra Mead composer-in-residence is a bit like winning "Top Chef," which is to say the intensified limelight may result in a tan and one's name abruptly enters a national conversation. In addition to penning works for the CSO, incoming duo Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek also will curate the symphony's MusicNow new-music series. We caught up with them recently to talk about their swanky new job.

Read More

Top classical music performances this fall (2015) by Doyle Armbrust

Sept. 6

Kids these days . . . are highly skilled, indomitable entrepreneurs, brewing up provocative set lists in nontraditional spaces. Chicago has exploded with such ensembles in the past decade, and the next batch has arrived, including enterprising groups such as Mocrep, which shares a bill with New York-based, hook-wrangling percussion trio Tigue in September. Mocrep is known for going deep on movement and performance art in its shows, so we're looking forward to some striking visuals in the band's dispatch of works by Jessie Marino and Carolyn Chen.

Read More


As the job market for classical music continues to trend toward upstart chamber ensembles, many specializing in contemporary music, a discouraging number of universities have been slow to adapt. That is not the case at DePaul University, where assistant professor of instrumental ensembles Michael Lewanski is confidently programming 20th- and 21st-century masterworks to inspire the next generation of professional musicians. A fixture at new music concerts across Chicago, Lewanski, 36, is conductor of Ensemble Dal Niente, founder of DePaul's Ensemble 20+ and an in-demand album producer and consultant for many of the city's chamber groups. With an impressive number of scores on deck for him this season, we caught up with this young conductor to talk about new music and the invigorating year ahead.

Read More


The Chicago variant of Paris' Fete de la Musique may not yet be the day off work it is to the French, but Make Music Chicago is one of the most inclusive and vibrant musical events of the year. Since 2011, Rush Hour Concerts has produced this kaleidoscopic celebration every June 21, coordinating play-alongs and mini-performances at 40 sites across the city with more than 1,000 amateur and professional musicians. We caught up with Make Music Chicago director Kuang-Hao Huang to find out what's new and why we ought to dust off our ukulele and take to the streets.

Read More

Top classical music performances this summer (2015) by Doyle Armbrust

May 17

The preconcert announcement to “for the love of all that is holy silence your cellphone” won't apply to the four vocalists debuting iLophone, an iOS app designed by composer Levy Lorenzo for his new score, “Inside Voices.” We're chuffed that audience members will be able to download this pitch-bending instrument after the show, but the program, featuring Eliza Brown's site-specific musical theater number “Prospect and Refuge” and Monte Weber's illusory, lyrical jumbler “Cruel Anvil,” is what makes this season closer a prize ticket.

Read More

Top classical music performances this spring (2015) by Doyle Armbrust

Through March 15

Easily the most captivating entry in Lyric Opera's 2014-15 season, Mieczyslaw Weinberg's "The Passenger" is a new opera—completed in 1968. It didn't receive its fully staged premiere until 2010, stymied as it was by an unsympathetic Soviet government during the composer's lifetime. The narrative centers on a looming encounter on a ship between a former SS overseer at Auschwitz and one of her former prisoners years after World War II's end. The jarring juxtaposition of the posh ocean liner and the concentration camp is visually arresting, and Weinberg's deft score stands to carry post-concert conversations long into the night. There are just three performances left.

Read More

Holiday/winter 2014-15 cultural preview: Classical music by Doyle Armbrust

Nov. 15

Those lucky enough to have attended Ensemble Dal Niente's "The Party" in 2012 remember delectable edibles, succulent libations and a fluid concert format in which listeners could come or go as they pleased. Party 2014 at Jackson Junge Gallery features a program as brain-detonating as its predecessor with selections from top-shelf auditory instigators such as John Adams, Ted Hearne, Augusta Read Thomas, Beat Furrer, Franco Donatoni and George Lewis.

Read More


If the phrase "experimental electronic improvisation" sounds as appetizing as "figgy pudding," it's time to meet composer and performer Tristan Perich. His sound installations landed him exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in recent years, and the landscapes he creates are the perfect entry point to outre electronic music for any curious explorer. The composer returns to Chicago's bastion of experimental music, the nonprofit Lampo series, at the Smart Museum of Art Dec. 13 to introduce his "Noise Patterns" project, which features him manipulating his custom-made circuit boards. We caught up with him by phone as he trekked through the woods near his home.

Read More