With the concert season's opening fast approaching, here is a preview look at the opening weeks (note that all events begin at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise stated and that FGH stands for Foellinger Great Hall at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts):
The Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra will continue offering candidates for the music director's position at its first spring concert Jan. 18 at FGH. David Commanday of Peoria will be the conductor candidate, and the program sports overtures by George Gershwin and Gioachino Rossini.
Pianist Adam Neiman will be the soloist in Maurice Ravel's jazz-inflected Concerto in G Major, and the evening will end with Ottorino Respighi's sonic spectacular, "The Pines of Rome."
Commanday is the conductor of the Heartland Festival Orchestra in Peoria. In 2011, he was named Professional Conductor of the Year by the Illinois Council of Orchestras. Nieman has recorded two CDs for the Naxos label as well as recordings for other labels.
The Russian National Ballet Theatre will open a three-night stand Jan. 22 with Marius Petipa's 1869 ballet "Don Quixote," based on Miguel de Cervantes' Spanish classic. The music is by Leon Minkus.
The Jan. 23 program includes "Chopiniana," an arrangement by Alexander Glazunov of Frederic Chopin's piano pieces, and "Romeo and Juliet," based on the William Shakespeare classic play. If this is the ballet I saw two years ago, it is not Sergei Prokofiev's famous setting but rather is danced to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Overture Fantasia" as well as interpolations from his "Pathetique Symphony."
On Jan. 24, the ballet will offer "Swan Lake" with Tchaikovsky's masterpiece score.
All performances begin at 7 p.m. and are at Krannert's Tryon Festival Theatre The first two evenings are recommended for ages 12 and up; "Swan Lake" for ages 8 and up.
Ian Hobson will begin the second half of his series of the piano music of Johannes Brahms on Jan. 24 in Smith Music Hall on the University of Illlinois campus.
Hobson will play with pianist Samir Golescu piano four hands arrangements by Brahms of his own works and pieces by Franz Schubert, Chopin and others. Golescu has won the Krannert Debut Artist Award.
The Sunday Salon Series will begin at 3 p.m. Jan. 27 in the FGH with the Jasper String Quartet, which was the winner of the 2012 Cleveland Quartet Award. The group will play Joseph Haydn's Quartet in F major, Op. 77, No. 2, Aaron Jay Kernis' Quartet No. 2, "musica instrumentalis," and Ludwig van Beethoven's very popular "Third Razumovsky" Quartet in C, Op. 59, No. 3.
On Feb. 7 in FGH, the East Coast Chamber Orchestra will offer a program that includes Benjamin Britten's early masterpiece (1937), "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge," as well as Bela Bartok's 1939 work, "Divertimento for Strings."
The UI Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Donald Schleicher, will open its spring season Feb. 8 in FGH with a program that includes "Pictures of Provence," a work for saxophone and orchestra by French composer Paule Maurice. This work, premiered in 1958, was dedicated to the French saxophone virtuoso Maurice Mule. At this concert, the alto saxophone soloist will be Phil Pierick, who has been a master's degree student at the UI studying with Debra Richtmeyer. The Antonin Dvorak Symphony No. 8 will conclude the program.
Alexander Platt of Chicago will be the candidate conductor at the CUSO concert Feb. 10 in FGH. Two Scandinavian works will be heard: Edvard Grieg's popular Piano Concert in A Minor, and Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 2, "The Four Temperaments."
The soloist in the Grieg concert will be William Wolfram, and shorter works by Charles Tomlinson Griffes and Claude Debussy will round out the program. New York-based Wolfram was silver medalist at both the William Kapell and the Naumburg International Piano Competitions.
On Feb. 12 in FGH, you can check out a display of Scottish musical and martial splendor when the Black Watch and the Band of the Scots Guards march out on stage.
The ranks of the Sinfonia da Camera will be swelled on Feb. 16 in FGH, to play Gustav Holst's monumental Suite for Large Orchestra, "The Planets." The UI Women's Glee Club, directed by Andrea Solya, will provide the ethereal harmonies that conclude Holst's work. And a postscript to Holst's original suite will be provided by Colin Matthews' 2000 work "Pluto, the Renewer."
The program will open with Darius Milhaud's jazz-inspired music for a ballet that set out to describe, in African folk style, "The Creation of the World."
Further previews of the spring season will appear next week.
John Frayne hosts "Classics of the Phonograph" on Saturdays at WILL-FM and, in retirement, teaches at the University of Illinois. He can be reached at email@example.com.