Kathy and are in the midst of our annual Chicago Christmas jaunt, taking in music and all the other wonders that make up Christmas in Chicago (1). This afternoon, after a Chicago Architecture Center tour on the origins of the EL, we took in a matinee at Orchestra Hall. These are great bargains, as they are never heavily attended, and we serve to bring down the average age of the audience. Just the day before, I’d received an e-mail from my old friend John. As across the street neighbors on Barton Lake, his piano tinklings competed with my blats on the trumpet. John went much farther, making a career as a concert pianist, NYC and all, with an advanced doctoral-equivalent degree from the University of Cincinnati.
He currently runs WAIF, a radio station in Cincinnati, in addition to his performing and teaching. As I was due to respond to him anyway, I thought I’d try to impress him with some of my “music journalism”. Here’s what I wrote him about the concert:
“Kathy and I just got in from a light Chicago snow, home from a matinee at Orchestra Hall. Guests conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider and organist Cameron Carpenter leading the way. Kathy loved “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, especially the oboes, but couldn’t get the cartoons out of her head.
I was in high anticipation of the concluding piece, St. Saën’s Organ Symphony, having never heard it with a real live rafter-shaking organ. The middle piece – Poulenc’s Concerto in G Minor for Organ, String Orchestra, and Timpani – provided Mr. Carpenter with ample opportunity for fireworks. So, I was on the edge of my seat when intermission concluded, the orchestra filled back up to full force, and these Guest guys appeared. I’d forgotten that St. Saēns doesn’t release the organ till the 4th movement. After the Poulenc, I was ready for lots more, and right now. Like any good Frenchman, St. Saëns wove a seduction, Szep-Znaider employing in sections the ample talents of this wonderful orchestra. Finally in the 3rd movement, the vaunted Chicago brass stepped in – they’d sat on the sidelines for the Poulenc – and did they have plenty to say. When they came back halfway into the last movement, they paired with their neighbor with the 5 kettle drums to build to an amazing climax, just in time for Carpenter to hit those pedals and bring this puppy in for a landing. The crowd erupted in a way that would make a Frenchman proud. If there were any dry eyes in the place, mine certainly weren’t among them. I wanted Carpenter to come back and do “In-a-gadda-da-vida” for an encore. Such was not to be as all we got was more applause to each player and section standing and taking a bow. All-in-all a pretty good deal.
I think Kathy and I will come back and do it again. Kathy is now addicted to sitting in Terrace. See our view of the stripped-down orchestra getting ready for the Poulenc. Sound from those instruments is omni-directional.
Scan here the many CSO offerings (2). Look carefully for the “Terrace” seating option. You’ll be surprised at how fun it is to listen to a concert at the back side of the orchestra.
But there’s no way you could be surprised at how much fun Chicago is at Christmas. It’s an easy train ride from Ann Arbor and some of our Kalamazoo friends like to drive to Hammond and take the South Shore line in. Bottom line, you do not need (or want) a car in Chicago. Driving brings grief and parking pecuniary. But it’s worth the trip regardless. Michiganders, one of the greatest cities in the world is oh so close. It would be folly to miss the opportunity. Come.
- ChooseChicago. Holidays in Chicago: Top Things to Do and See. 10/24/22. https://www.choosechicago.com/articles/holidays/top-chicago-winter-holiday-traditions/
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Calendar. https://cso.org/concerts-tickets/whats-on
- DisneyWorldMusic. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice [Paul Dukas]. YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gkj2QeogAsU
- Olla-vogala. Francis Poulenc – Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings in G minor. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RduLr1Cp9Ls
- hr-Sinfonieorchester – Frankfurt Radio Symphony. Saint-Saëns: 3. Sinfonie (>>Orgelsinfonie<<) hr-Sinfonieorcherester . Iveta Apkalna . Riccardo Minasa. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GrO47WJKTI