The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Summer, Finally! Grant Park Season Begins

By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 9, 2009 7:20PM

Photo courtesy of Grant Park Music Festival
The Grant Park Music Festival's 75th season gets started tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The anniversary celebration kicks off with concerts on Wednesday and Friday at the Pritzker Pavilion and on Saturday in the Harris Theater.

Wednesday, June 10, at 6:30 p.m.

The show opens with Arturo Toscanini's arrangement of the drinking-song-turned-national-anthem, "Star Spangled Banner." Next up is Peter Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, performed by world-renowned pianist Stephen Hough (no relation).

The second half will be Maurice Ravel's 1922 orchestral arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." The piece was composed in 1874 as a piano suite, inspired by an exhibition of the work of Mussorgsky's friend Victor Hartmann, held shortly after the artist/architect's death. Keep your ears open for the movement featured in the interpretive dance scene from "The Big Lebowski."

Program notes here.

Weather forecast:
Daytime highs will reach 66, but it'll drop to close to 50 at night. Cloudy, 40% chance of rain, and slight winds off the lake.

Friday, June 12, at 5:30 p.m. (note the early start time)

If Wednesday's concert knocks your socks off, then Friday's show will rip away your pants.

Dmitri Shostakovich's rarely performed "Song of the Forests," written for orchestra, chorus, children's chorus, and tenor and bass soloists, will take up the second half. Shostakovich's career broadly followed the cycle of offending Stalin, hoping that he and his loved ones wouldn't be sent to a gulag, and then writing music to get back in the Party's good graces. "Song of the Forests" represents an attempt to appease the dictator, and the lines praising Stalin (he was a "great gardener") were removed after his death, leaving only the innocuous theme of replanting forests destroyed during World War II. Shostakovich was a savvy suck-up, though, and his "tribute" pieces usually contain a barely concealed and often violent sarcasm. The Grant Park Chorus, the Chicago Children's Choir, tenor John Horton Murray, and bass Denis Sedov will join the GPO on stage.

The real headliner of the concert, though, comes before intermission, when the GPO performs the Symphonic Suite from "On the Waterfront." Leonard Bernstein - composer, conductor, pianist, educator, author - composed the film score for this Oscar-drenched movie. If you were mesmerized by the beauty of Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint and didn't notice the score, Friday's concert will give you the chance to give Bernstein's powerful, high-energy music its due.

49-year-old Aaron Jay Kernis's "Too Hot Toccata," recorded last year by the GPO, starts the concert.

Weather forecast:
Good stuff. Highs in the mid-70s, nighttime low around 58. Partly cloudy.

Saturday, June 13, at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

"Too Hot Toccata" opens, followed by the "On the Waterfront" and "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Weather forecast:
It doesn't matter because this concert will be in the Harris Theater, but if you must know, it might rain and lows will be around 57.

For an overview of the Festival's 75 year history, beginning with its origins as a Great Depression public works program started by Chicago Federation of Musicians president James Petrillo and continuing through the move to Millennium Park in 2004, check out Wynne Delacoma's article on Lawrence A. Johnson's terrific new blog, Chicago Classical Review.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, Wednesday, June 10, at 6:30 p.m.; Friday, June 12, at 5:30 p.m.; and Saturday, June 13, in the Harris Theater, at 7:30 p.m. As always, GPO concerts are FREE