TIGUE / MOCREP
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.
ENSEMBLE DAL NIENTE
Local new music evangelists Ensemble Dal Niente were busy getting sunburned on tour in Mexico, Panama and Colombia this summer and soon will bring the stories and the music from their adventure to Chicago's beloved Latino Music Festival. The band's season opener, "Canciones," features a prismatic array of works by living composers such as Federico Garcia-De Castro, Andres Carrizo, Francisco Castillo Trigueros and Marcelo Toledo.
CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
In the vast hinterland of the podcast, Radiolab's "Unraveling Bolero" episode remains one of the most riveting half-hours ever posted. This unpacking of Ravel's neurological state is required listening for ticketholders heading to Symphony Center in late September for these concerts with Riccardo Muti at the helm and with this early foray into minimalism as the closer. That French virtuoso Xavier de Maistre will be slaying the Ginastera Harp Concerto on the same program makes this ticket irresistible.
CHICAGO OPERA THEATER
Sept. 26-Oct. 4
If you already knew that "Lucio Silla" is an opera by Mozart, it's time to secure a spot on "Jeopardy." It may be one of Mozart's earliest chart-toppers—he wrote it at 16—but Chicago audiences don't often have the opportunity to see this Roman tale of treachery and transformation on stage. Unafraid to mine the less-trod corners of the repertoire, the consistently adventuresome Chicago Opera Theater launches its 2015-16 season with this compelling glimpse into the young mind of one of classical music's greatest composers.
Fans of Lyric Opera's recent production of Mieczyslaw Weinberg's "The Passenger" are about to get another stimulating fix as the Avalon String Quartet embarks on its survey of the Polish-born composer's catalog. The dexterous ensemble is in its fifth year collaborating with the Art Institute of Chicago, allying full cycles of quartets by the likes of Beethoven and Bartok with the museum's collection. For this first installment, Weinberg's Quartet No. 6 in E Minor shares the bill with the composer's mentor, Dmitri Shostakovich, whose Quartet No. 4 in D Major provides an absorbing complement.
Watching piano soloists pantomime full-body orgasms with every change of harmony (looking at you, Lang Lang) may not be your cup of proverbial tea, so allow us to suggest you head to Symphony Center for a world-class display of subtlety and nuance. Septuagenarian Maurizio Pollini has turned his focus from Boulez and Schoenberg to Mozart and Schumann in recent history, and with a fetching program including Chopin's Two Nocturnes, Op. 55, we anticipate the piano recital equivalent of a fine ruby port.
FIFTH HOUSE ENSEMBLE
TED Talk junkies will want to tune in to composer (and TED fellow) Dan Visconti's recent interview on the organization's blog for a dip into the brain behind Soundings. Visconti's piano trio receives its world premiere in October with the Fifth House Ensemble, anchoring a program of chamber works by Jennifer Higdon and Stacy Garrop. Listeners eager for the foothold of tonality in contemporary classical music will find an enchanting home here, and if past Fifth House concerts are any indication, listeners can expect an inviting, charming atmosphere.
GEORGE LEWIS, CATHERINE SULLIVAN, SEAN GRIFFIN: "AFTERWORD, AN OPERA"
Chicago is the birthplace of one of the most visionary collectives of experimental music, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. As part of the celebration of its 50th anniversary, member and composer George Lewis reopens his landmark book about the group, "A Power Stronger Than Itself," with an operatic afterword that looks forward into the musical future for which the association set the stage. With the International Contemporary Ensemble as his band for this new improvisatory venture, this concert is the miss-at-your-own-peril event of the fall.
"CONTEMPO: PORTRAITS OF SHULAMIT RAN"
Slapping one's surname on the front of a skyscraper is one way to "give" to the city of Chicago, but so is offering seven years as Chicago Symphony composer-in-residence, a 42-year tenure at the University of Chicago and winning a Pulitzer Prize. We prefer the latter and plan to celebrate Shulamit Ran's incandescent presence here as Pacifica Quartet, Eighth Blackbird and mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley survey the composer's impressive catalog. Keep an ear out for Ran's "Bach Shards," which plays as a nimble companion piece to Bach's "Art of the Fugue."
LYRIC OPERA: "WOZZECK"
Nov. 1-Nov. 21
If the terms "atonal" and "avant-garde" generally sound as appealing to you as a warm Budweiser at Lollapalooza, Austrian composer Alban Berg is your gateway guy. His extraordinary opera "Wozzeck" stands as a high-water mark of the 20th century and of the upcoming Lyric Opera season; at 90 minutes, this isn't a Wagnerian, two-intermission, box-dinner-and-a-pup-tent affair. The story of the hapless titular character is torrid and bloody, like a good opera should be, and the music is simply sensational.
- Doyle Armbrust