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I’ve finally gotten a chance to settle into my room here in the heart of the old part of town, here in Ravenna, and so I thought I’d give an update as to how the trip has started. The flight here was a bit chaotic, as British Airways and Heathrow Airport in London ran into some network issues earlier today, causing many people’s luggages (including mine…) to be misplaced from their designated connecting flights. It also didn’t help that my flight to London had only a ~40 minute period before my next connection to Bologna (and security/customs takes way longer than that…). Oh well, such is life, and in these situations, one can only hope that the airline does its job and gets the proper luggage back to its proper owners in a timely manner. It’s kind of fortuitous that I’ve been to Ravenna before, so I knew exactly where to go as soon as I was dropped off the bus from Bologna (some of the British tourists were a bit uncomfortable navigating the small city). After checking into my room, I went out to go rent a bike, just like last time, which allows me to navigate throughout the town pretty easily (as I’ve mentioned, bikes in Ravenna are pretty much the norm!). I bought some extra supplies and clothes in the nearby stores (much more affordable than what you can get at Walgreens or other shops in Chicago), and so hopefully I’ll be ok until my luggage arrives (please be here by tomorrow!). Plus, I’ve already managed to get my first cup of gelato/sorbetto (mint chocolate chip and mango), and I am sure this will be the first of many, many cups these next couple of days.

As for being in Ravenna, it’s really as if nothing changed since the last time I came! There was a seemingly odd familiarity as I biked throughout Piazza del Popolo, or crossed the street from Teatro Alighieri to Dante’s tomb. Even the experience of trying to relay my broken Italian to the same guys working the bike rental shop near the train station was a deja-vu (although I’d like to think that my Italian has somewhat improved over these past two years?). Regardless, I am sure these next two weeks are going to be an incredibly brand new experience, especially learning Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro from Maestro Muti! This opera is the first one I learned at UChicago (thanks again Prof. Rings!), and so it will be super interesting now to hear Maestro Muti’s insights on the opera, especially considering his long relationship with conducting Mozart’s works (he’s usually considered a top interpreter of Verdi and Mozart). Anyways, I think it might be time to pull up my old papers from freshman year to see what I wrote then…just to get in the mindset of being immersed in this opera for the next two weeks.

Anyways, I’m headed to Florence tomorrow morning by train, which is sure to be a fun trip (let’s hope the trains don’t break down like last time!). I’m looking forward to visiting some of the places I didn’t get a chance to last time (e.g. Boboli gardens, Ponte Vecchio, etc.) as well as revisiting some of the highlights I enjoyed so very much last time (e.g. Santa Croce, San Lorenzo Market, etc.) – will update again tomorrow!

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Just came back from the first concert performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s season finale program: Verdi’s Aida! If you’ve been reading this blog, then you’ll know that there’s been a lot of hype leading up to this: I mean you can’t really get any better with Riccardo Muti, the greatest conductor of Verdi today, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Chorus and a renowned cast of opera stars! Though the performance wasn’t exactly perfect (then again, no performance is ever truly “perfect”), it was still an exciting end to an interesting—sometimes drama-filled—but nonetheless, rich season of music. This marks the fourth full opera (of Verdi’s) that Maestro Muti has conducted in concert style with the CSO (previous three include the Shakespeare trilogy: Otello, Macbeth, and Falstaff), and next season will feature the fifth (Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana).

Anita Rachvelishvili, “the best Verdi mezzo-soprano” today, after singing Amneris!

First things first, I have to say that the absolute best part of this performance was Anita Rachvelishvili’s Amneris. Literally everyone was left amazed by her brilliant “Judgment” scene in the fourth act, let alone the other parts of the opera that she sang (like in Act II w/ Aida). It’s not just the fact that she has an incredibly huge voice that can fill up the entire hall, but it’s the fact that her sound is always so resonant and round, whether she’s singing loudly or softly. Her ability to also bring out the dramatic essence of the parola scenica and very well-tuned intuition in matching her phrasing to the inherent flow of Verdi’s music (example: listen to her phrasing of “Ebben qual nuovo fremito t’assal gentil Aida” in the second act duet w/ Aida) is definitely much deserving of Maestro Muti’s comment: “without doubt the best Verdi mezzo–soprano today on the planet.” Also, equally as good was the CSO’s playing of this rich, complex score…the virtuosity, skill, and musicality was clearly evident throughout, and was most on display during the ballet

As I mentioned in my previous post from the dress rehearsal, there were a couple of minor things that still needed to be ironed out, and I thought most of them would have been resolved by the time the first performance came around, but there were still a couple of mishaps that occurred . They weren’t all necessarily related to the actual performance though: first, the supertitle system apparently malfunctioned, and it was apparently making a lot of extraneous noises that were probably off-putting to Maestro Muti and the musicians, so there was a loudspeaker announcement at the beginning of the second act stating that the use of supertitles would be suspended throughout the rest of the opera. There was some chatter from the audience as a result, and I can understand why some would be upset (especially if you don’t know the story/libretto), but at least there was a provided libretto. However, that also proved to be somewhat of double-edged sword because you could clearly hear simultaneous page turns throughout the performance—and in the quietest of moments, it would have been nice to have no pages rustling throughout the hall (but that’s just my preference haha). There was also a seemingly unnatural increase in coughs/sneezes yesterday, and usually I don’t mind them, but it definitely seemed much more apparent (maybe the Friday evening crowd is more prone to allergies than the usual Thursday evening crowd?…).

With regards to the actual musical performance, maybe some extra rehearsals might have been helpful?…There were still some mistimed entrances and rhythms that were a bit off throughout the opera, which I think forced Maestro Muti to really keep a tight control on literally every beat. Case in point: towards the end of Act II, when Amonasro (sung by Kiril Manolov) sings “Fa cor: della tua patria i lieti eventi aspetta; per noi della vendetta già prossimo è l’albor”, the phrase consists of a pretty rapid series of eighth notes, of which the rhythm can be easily thrown off if you aren’t precise and super exact on the beat with the orchestra…and I think that unfortunately happened to Manolov last night Also, I’m not exactly sure, but there might have been a voice issue w/ Krassimira Stoyanova last night, who didn’t seem like her usual self (I heard her last season in Rossini’s Stabat Mater and she was great in that performance!)…you couldn’t really hear her when the orchestra was playing, and she was also taking some sort of cough drop or medicine during the performance—hopefully she’s ok though! Her two big solo arias (I sacri nomi in Act I and O patria mia in Act III) were still solid, and despite whatever vocal challenges she may have had, she still dramatically portrayed the anguish and torment that Aida faces throughout the story. Maybe everything will be back to normal by the last run of the opera next Tuesday

Francesco Meli, after singing Radames!

Despite the bold, grandiose nature of the first two acts, it is really Acts III and IV that demonstrate the dramatic core of the opera. Francesco Meli, who sung the role of Radames, easily pulled off the difficult duets w/ Aida in Act III and w/ Amneris in Act IV with a boldly projected voice. And of course, Meli definitely noted all the “come scritto” aspects related to diction, phrasing, etc. that Maestro Muti emphasizes with Radames in these duets. For example, in Act III, when Radames sings “Sarai tu il serto della mia gloria,” the “tu” and the “il” should be clearly delineated sounds and yet still be connected in a legato form—basically it sounds like saying the word “tuile”. A lot of tenors don’t pay attention to this nuance and so it sometimes sounds like “Sarai tull” or “Sarai tu”, which is definitely wrong haha. Meli properly enunciated the phrase, and him being a native Italian speaker probably helps in that respect haha. Another example is in the cabaletta of the Act III Aida-Ramames duet, “Ah no! fuggiamo! Si fuggiam da queste mura…”: when Radames has to sing the ascending phrase “Su noi gli astri brilleranno di più limpido fulgor”, the common performance tradition is to have the “di più” sung on the four descending eighth notes phrase (G-F-E-D) because it is more comfortable for the voice. However, it’s not “come scritto” in that Verdi actually wrote the “-no” syllable of “brilleranno” to begin on the G natural, not the “di più”. Meli also paid attention to this, and it goes to show that he was well-prepared by Maestro Muti for this role

The rest of the cast and the chorus were good too, including Ildar Abdrazakov as Ramfis, Eric Owens as il Re (the King), Tasha Koontz as the Sacerdotesse (Priestess), and Issachah Savage as un messaggero (a messenger). Understandably so, the entire audience were up on their feet at the close of the performance, and despite some minor slips, it was still a great experience to hear this opera performed live, in its entirety, with the CSO and Maestro Muti. I’ll be back to hear the last run on Tuesday (and hopefully all the mishaps will have worked themselves out by then), but basically this CSO season is in the books! In the meantime, I’ll be busy planning for next month’s trip to Ravenna, which also means that I need to revisit the score for Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro! I’ll have to pull up my old papers that I wrote on the opera from Prof. Steve Rings’ music analysis class back at UChicago, so that should be a fun visit back in time

Apparently, June 21st is National Selfie Day lol, so what better way to celebrate it than to take a selfie with the greatest Verdi conductor of today! Grazie Maestro Muti and looking forward to learning Le Nozze di Figaro next month in Ravenna

Update! (6/24/19): So, Maestro Muti was holding a CD/book signing after yesterday’s matinee afternoon performance, and since it was open to everyone regardless if you had a ticket to the Sunday performance, I decided to head back down to Symphony Center haha. I managed to hear some of the fourth act when I got there, and apparently, because Stoyanova was indisposed to performing, there was a new replacement for Aida, sung by Elaine Alvarez. From all that I heard of the fourth act, during the Aida-Radames duets, she was definitely a much needed replacement as she was able to sing the difficult jumps in “Vedi? Di morte l’angelo” without having the voice split up. I wonder if she’ll also sing in tomorrow’s performance?…Also, if you want to read a pretty good review of the opening night performance on Friday, check out this by Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times. It’s a well-written account of the performance (the line: “and the import of the opera’s conclusion—a timeless religious sphere quietly swallows up the transient concerns of governments and romances…” is a particular favorite of mine!), and while I never heard the Muti-CSO performances of Macbeth and Otello, I do have to say that Falstaff was an overall stronger performance, mostly because the whole cast of soloists were not only just vocally secure, but felt more at ease (maybe that’s because the score of Falstaff is inherently written like that?). Like it just always felt fun and light…but not in a silly, trivial manner, if that makes sense! I don’t think I would go so far as to say that “the drama barely crackled”…especially when Rachvelishvili was singing, but the Aida-Amonasro duet probably could have been a bit more persuasive . Despite these minor shortcomings, I still think that Maestro Muti brings an incredibly important interpretation, in that the opera is not merely treated as a free-for-all, exaggerative mess (which Aida is usually presented as…), but one that is serious, refined, and a story that is wholly concentrated on the emotional interplay between a couple of key characters (Aida, Amneris, Radames, and Amonasro), and that is why I would still prefer this interpretation over any other. I’m looking forward to tomorrow evening’s performance to see if perhaps a new Aida might shake things up a bit, but regardless, this was still a befitting finale to the CSO’s current season!

Also…can’t forget to mention about Maestro Muti’s signing afterwards! I was torn between whether I wanted to get his new book signed (L’infinito tra le note), my score of Aida, or a CD…but I ended up going with a book about Maestro Muti’s tenure at La Scala from 1970-2000, that I first happened to come across in the Northwestern library! I managed to find a free copy of the book after checking it out from the library, and so I decided to get it signed! Maestro Muti excitedly flipped through the book and revisited some of the memorable productions that he conducted at La Scala — pretty cool to witness this in person haha.

Yassss – another Muti signature to add to my collection haha

Update #2 (6/26/19): So, having just heard the third and final performance of Aida, I can finally say that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s season is finally complete! Stoyanova was back to singing the titular role, and while she still wasn’t fully recovered, she was definitely in better shape than opening night. Manolov was also more settled into the role as well, so it was nice to hear a more lively Act III Aida-Amonasro duet because that’s one of the high points of the opera. Yes, there were still a couple of slips within the performance—from a couple of notes that were sustained too long or poor pronunciation/wrong words sung (which may have prompted some, let’s say, ‘curious’ glances from Maestro Muti haha), but nevertheless, the orchestra’s playing of this complex, beautiful score was still the main star (as well as Rachvelishvili’s Amneris). Maybe it helped that I sat near the front for this performance, so I was able to hear more clearly and pay more attention to these nuanced details?…And best of all, during the curtain calls, Maestro Muti came out to stand w/ the violins and just so happened to see me in the audience (his vision is good haha), so he was mouthing to me some stuff (couldn’t hear over the applause and cheers ) while waving hi (I think some of the players were surprised at what was going on lol)…definitely the best way to end the season Nevertheless, this performance marked an exciting, dramatic conclusion to this dramatic season of the CSO’s, and I am very much looking forward to what’s in store for this summer (I should be able to make a first trip up to Ravinia to hear the CSO play in their summer home!), as well as the start of the next season in the fall (Beethoven 250!).

Maestro Riccardo Muti after the final performance of Verdi’s Aida, to conclude the Chicago Symphony’s current season. Always an enlightening experience to hear the preeminent Verdian of our time conduct the composers’ operatic works.
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Just came back from hearing the final dress rehearsal of Verdi’s Aida, led by Maestro Riccardo Muti, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and an international cast of soloists: Krassimira Stoyanova (Aida), Anita Rachvelishvili (Amneris), Francesco Meli (Radames), Ildar Abdrazakov (Ramfis), Eric Owens (Il Re), Kiril Manolov (Amonasro), Tasha Koontz (Sacerdotessa), and Issachah Savage (Un messaggero), and I’m so glad I was able to attend! To revisit the opera with the score was a welcome return back to such an incredible masterpiece of Verdi’s, and to hear Maestro Muti lead it with the CSO made the whole thing even better!

Now, since this was a dress rehearsal, the soloists weren’t all singing in full voice, which was immediately established by Maestro Muti as a “rule” when he came out to begin the rehearsal…which makes sense, considering this is a really heavy opera with big vocal demands, so it’s good that the singers are preserving their voices for tomorrow evening’s first performance. For the most part, I think everyone—the orchestra, soloists, and chorus—is in pretty good shape for tomorrow. There were, of course, a couple of things that needed to be ironed out during the rehearsal, whether it was some late entrances, not entirely correct rhythms, or not paying close attention to certain dynamic markings (lol), but they were super minor fixes and I’m sure everything will be ready to go by tomorrow! There will be supertitles projected, as similarly done for the CSO’s concert performances of Verdi’s Falstaff in 2016, and so the audience should be able to follow along with the plot.

Also, I must mention that I was super impressed by Anita Rachvelishvili’s Amneris and Ildar Abdrazakov’s Ramfis—maybe it was because they were the two singers who pretty much sang in full voice during the majority of the rehearsal, but seriously, their voices resonate really well in Orchestra Hall. I’ve heard so much about them, but this is my first time hearing them perform live, and I have to say that all the hype about them is completely true—they are both incredible singers! And they are clearly attuned to Maestro Muti’s style of interpreting Verdi, in which they really serve the drama by paying close attention to the text of the libretto and the specific markings within Verdi’s score. They had completely smooth legato lines, noted each and every accent, diminuendo, or all the other expressive markings of Verdi’s (e.g. “con passione“, “animando“, “con calma“, etc.)—they truly represented the importance of the Verdian “parola scenica”. Anyways, if you can get a ticket for either tomorrow’s, Sunday’s, or next Tuesday’s performance (they might all be sold out unfortunately, but maybe there might be some people who can’t make it!), try to attend! It’ll be a fantastic performance, and you’ll understand why Maestro Muti is basically today’s undisputed master of Verdi’s music.

Maestro Muti leading the dress rehearsal of Verdi’s Aida!
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Of all the years I’ve been attending the CSO (albeit, not that many haha), I can’t remember a time when there was ever a program that featured five works (including a Beethoven symphony and three different concerti!). Well, nevertheless, that was indeed the case for last night’s concert, which kicked off Maestro Muti’s final residency here in Chicago for the current season. The program featured: 1) Vivaldi’s Piccolo Concerto in C Major (RV 444), 2) Benshoof’s Piccolo Concerto, 3) Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, 4) Stephenson’s Bass Trombone Concerto (world premiere performance!), and 5) Gershwin’s An American in Paris. For those who criticize the scope of Maestro Muti’s programming…this program essentially goes from the Baroque period to the traditional Viennese Classical period (w/ subtle hints of the characteristic Beethoven 19th century heroic/Romantic style to come) to 20th century American jazz orchestral music to contemporary classical music—that basically speaks for itself.

Due to the CSO strike in March, a concert that was supposed to have featured the Vivaldi and Benshoof piccolo concerti, with soloist Jennifer Gunn, as well as the Beethoven 2nd Symphony, was canceled. Luckily, those three pieces got moved to this concert instead (which meant the removal of Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3), and I’m super glad that Maestro Muti made this program change. The piccolo (flautino) isn’t an instrument one often focuses on, and so to spotlight this instrument (and Gunn’s own virtuosity!) with these two concerti was fascinating. The Baroque composition of Vivaldi’s is a relatively short concerto (split into three movements), but the level of skill needed to pull off all the seemingly continuous trills, triplets, and scales/phrases, as well as the more can is absolutely insaneeee. Like you definitely need a lot of breath control to play this without making it seem fragmented, and Gunn handled it masterfully. The Benshoof concerto, composed in 2016, was a little different, in that it was more about featuring the sounds of the piccolo, rather than the virtuosity of the soloist in the Vivaldi concerto. One of the things I’ve noticed about the contemporary classical music pieces that I’ve listened to (not that many haha) is that it’s more about exploring what types of different sounds that instruments/the orchestra can make rather than developing melody, which isn’t necessarily to my taste, but such is life lol. The Benshoof was sort of like this, especially in the second movement (“Calm”), where there just seemed to be a random collection of sounds/tones—however, I do have to say that the beginning of the movement was pretty cool, as it was very reminiscent of the third interlude (“Moonlight”) of Britten’s “Four Sea Interludes” from Peter Grimes (maybe he was going for the calm of the sea as well?). And then the third movement, which Benshoof describes as “a party for the evening”, contained some ragtime-like syncopations/rhythms that capped off the rest of the concerto. Overall, I’m glad we did get to hear these two very different, but both important, pieces for the piccolo!

As I’ve previously mentioned, this past quarter, I’ve been taking a musicology class on Beethoven. Since there are so many works of Beethoven’s to cover, we didn’t get to study all 9 of the symphonies in detail, one of them unfortunately being the 2nd. It is one of the least played symphonies of Beethoven’s, but after the brilliant performance Maestro Muti and the CSO gave last night, that should definitely be changed! The symphony is still composed with the general mindset of the Viennese classical tradition (think the symphonies of Mozart and Haydn), but it is still unmistakably Beethoven. There are hints of darker, more dramatic moods throughout, especially within the first movement (“Adagio molto—Allegro con brio”)…you can definitely tell how the Eroica symphony will come out of this after this. The performance sets up quite nicely for next season, when Maestro Muti will conduct the full Beethoven symphony cycle (which is being recorded!) for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. I have now heard Beethoven 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 performed live in concert, so all I need to do is hear 1, 6, and 9…can’t wait! (Plus, I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned here before, but Maestro Muti will finally be conducting Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, in two seasons’ time! It’s a piece that he hasn’t conducted yet, but has been studying for a while. Considering it’s one of Beethoven’s greatest works, and one of the most important pieces of 19th century sacred music, this will definitely be something to look forward to!)

It’s always a special occasion when there’s a world premiere piece on the program…think about it, you’re basically one of the first people to hear a new piece performed live in public for the very first time! (Our class recently watched a dramatized account of the world premiere of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, and so I’m always thinking now what it must have been like to hear these great works for the very first time.) Anyways, the world premiere of Stephenson’s Bass Trombone concerto was on the program, and I think out of all the world premiere pieces I’ve heard by the CSO so far (including Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto, Ogonek’s All These Lighted Things, and Adams’ many words of love), this was probably my favorite! To be honest, I think the piece is more similar to a tone poem with solo bass trombone (kinda like Strauss’ Don Quixote for cello) rather than a concerto for bass trombone, but overlooking these minor details, I think the piece did a great job at showcasing both the virtuosity of the soloist (Vernon really had to play some fiendishly difficult passages, which also required no small amount of breath control) and the unique sonorities of the bass trombone. It’s a quite large piece, at times with a lot of turbulence from the full orchestra, but that was offset by trombone’s jazz-like rhythms and lyrical sections throughout, which helped to set a clear focus. Of course, standing ovations for both the composer and soloist followed. And to finish off the already-packed program with Gershwin’s An American in Paris (you just can’t quite get that saxophone solo melody out of your head)…amazing concert last night!

Anyways, next week is the final and most-anticipated program of the season…complete performances of Verdi’s Aida! Also, Yo-Yo Ma will be in town to perform all six of the Bach cello suites (part of his global Bach project) at Millennium Park, so I think these next couple of days will have a lot in store. More to come!

Composer Jim Stephenson with soloist Charles Vernon after world premiere performance of Stephenson’s Bass Trombone concerto! Maestro Muti congratulates composer Jim Stephenson on the world premiere performance of his Bass Trombone concerto!

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A short post today because I’ve been caught up with some final papers/assignments for the end of the academic quarter! Anyways, last week, Australian conductor Simone Young made her (belated) podium debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The program consisted of three works, all firmly rooted in the 19th century, Austro-Hungarian/German Romantic tradition, that is: 1) Liszt’s Prometheus, 2) excerpts from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, and 3) Schoenberg’s orchestration of Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1.

Of course, I was most looking forward to hearing the CSO play the Wagner excerpts, especially considering that Young is a seasoned conductor of Wagner’s music (she’s conducted the entire Ring at the Vienna State Opera and Berlin State Opera, which is no small feat!) and the CSO is an orchestra with strong roots in the Wagnerian operatic tradition (of course, the same can now be said with regards to the Verdian operatic tradition :D). While Wagner’s music can sometimes seem a bit too prolonged, there is no doubt of Wagner’s craft as a master of rich, glorious orchestration. Seriously, there is nothing quite like hearing live the famous Valhalla or Valkyries leitmotifs of the Epilogue resonate in a concert hall. Young kept a firm grasp on the orchestra, and despite a couple of musical slips, her deft command of Wagner’s music was apparent—a great sonic experience overall! Same can be said for the Brahms/Schoenberg piece…fantastic podium debut for Young and hopefully she will be back to conduct the CSO again!

In other news…Maestro Muti is back for his final residency of the CSO’s ’18-’19 season! Tonight marks the first program of the residency, which will feature a world premiere commission (Stephenson’s Bass Trombone Concerto), among some other works that I will recap in a future post…stay tuned!

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(Thurs. May 16). The Sibelius violin concerto is a foundational cornerstone of the violin repertoire—a highly technical piece of the late Romantic period that requires no small degree of virtuosity and interpretive ability. To be quite honest, I hadn’t heard of this piece until I watched an episode of Mozart in the Jungle a couple of years ago, even though my dad had been bugging me for a long time to listen to a recording he had of Nigel Kennedy and Simon Rattle’s version. Though, I do have one recording of the piece on my iTunes library, which happens to be Maestro Muti and the Philharmonia Orchestra’s recording with Gidon Kremer as soloist, and so my (limited) exposure to this piece has been with a largely modernist interpretation (Check out Kremer’s performance here of the first movement!). Thus, I was greatly looking forward to hearing it performed live in concert for the first time by Hilary Hahn, with Marin Alsop and the Chicago Symphony.

Hilary Hahn, one of the most recognized violinists of this generation, returned back to Symphony Center to perform this piece, inevitably forming the definite highlight of the evening. While performances of this piece can vary widely in the interpretative spectrum, from clean Modernist readings to fluid Romantic ones, Hahn’s performance closely sided with that of the latter. Yet, the interpretation had a distinctive form of self-expression that never veered towards excess nor sloppiness. Her drawn-out, expansive rubato—conducted with a careful deliberateness—within the first movement (Allegro moderato) allowed for a production of round, burnished tones full of depth that enveloped each and every crevice of the hall. This, coupled with a profound arsenal of technique and dramatic flair towards the end of the movement, led to one audience member’s rapid exclamation of “Wow!” at the movement’s immediate conclusion. An introspective and sensitive reading of the second movement (Adagio di molto) thus paved way for technical bravura and virtuosic display in the dance of the third movement (Allegro, ma non tanto), with an ever-pulsating forward flow. Alsop and the orchestra provided stable accompaniment for Hahn, though not without some slight timing mishaps—nevertheless, this was a deeply satisfying account of this work and hopefully Hahn will return back to Chicago with another unique interpretation of the great violin concerti. It was also great to meet Hahn at a post-concert signing! Since I’m also taking a Beethoven musicology class, I decided to ask her about her thoughts on the differences and similarities between Beethoven’s and Sibelius’ violin concerti, and her insights were illuminating, especially on how Beethoven wrote more expansive phrases (“arcs”) compared to Sibelius.

The works of Rachmaninoff most recognized today are those written for the piano, such as his piano concerti, which is correlated to his own virtuosic command of the instrument. The same cannot necessarily be said for his symphonic works, despite Alsop and the CSO’s involved performance of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. However, there is something deep and enthralling—a yearning sentimentality, what have you—in its third movement, and special mention must go out to CSO principal clarinetist Stephen Williamson, who brought a vivid lushness and exquisite sense of breath control to each and every passage he played. What a wonderful sonic experience to hear this brilliant musician produce the sounds he did for this Romantic work.

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