With spring break over, the concert halls will be busy once again this weekend and also for April, the last full month of the academic year. A look ahead:
On Saturday, the Sinfonia da Camera will perform one of Johann Sebastian Bach's most famous masterpieces, "St. Matthew Passion." It was a revival of this deeply moving work by Felix Mendelssohn in 1829 that sparked the revival of Bach's music, which had been neglected since his death in 1750.
Fred Stoltzfus, who is retiring this year as chairman of choral music at the University of Illinois School of Music, will lead his valedictory performance. The Sinfonia will be joined by the UI Oratorio Society and the UI Chorale.
Please note that the times of this performance have been changed. The concert will begin at 1 p.m. with Part 1 of the work, and then after a break for refreshment, the concert will resume at 3 for the final portion. Tarik Bousselma will sing the part of the Evangelist, and Ricardo Herrera will sing the role of Jesus.
The Sinfonia will be back in the Foellinger, with Ian Hobson back on the podium, for a Rush Hour concert at 5:30 p.m. April 9.
Violinist Stefan Milenkovich will play Pablo de Sarasate's Fantasy on Bizet's "Carmen," and trumpeter Ronald M. Romm will offer a Salute to Rafael Mendez. Hobson, at the piano, will play and conduct Frederick Chopin's "Grande Polonaise Brilliante." The concert will begin with that old favorite, Peter Tchaikovsky's "Overture Fantasia: 'Romeo and Juliet,'" and the concert, and the Sinfonia season, will end with the big bang of Tchaikovsky's "Overture 1812."
The next month will be a busy one for Hobson. He will conclude his series on the piano music of Johannes Brahms with concerts on March 31 and April 10, 17 and 26. These concerts begin at 7:30 in Smith Memorial Hall except for the concluding concert April 26, which will be in the Foellinger Great Hall — and Hobson will be joined by J. David Harris, clarinet, and Dmitry Kouzov, cello.
British trumpeter Alison Balsom will appear at 7:30 p.m. April 18 with the Scottish Ensemble in the Foellinger Great Hall. Balsom has been recently selected twice at the Classic BRITs awards as Female Artist of the Year. The concert will offer music of the baroque era, and Balsom will play her adaptations for the trumpet of concertos by Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi, originally for other instruments. Music by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and other composers will round out the program.
What will probably be the major classical music event of the year here is the April 20 appearance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by world-famous maestro Riccardo Muti. He appeared in the Foellinger Great Hall in 2006, but this is his first appearance here with the Chicago Symphony. In 2006, Muti conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in Foellinger, and the highlight of that concert was a wonderful performance of Franz Schubert's "Great" C Major Symphony.
On April 20, the program will include Vivaldi's Concerto in A Major for Strings and Continuo, R. 158, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Symphony No. 38, "Prague," and Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 4. The last two works are noted more for their beautiful balance and proportions rather than intense drama and orchestral fireworks, but who knows what encores will also be played (in 2006 Muti and the Viennese Orchestra played Josef Strauss' "Music of the Spheres" waltz as encore)?
The UI School of Music Opera Program will conclude its season with "The Three Penny Opera," with music by Kurt Weill and text by Berthold Brecht, with performances in the Tryon Festival Theatre at 7:30 p.m. April 25-27 and at 3 p.m. April 28.
This work is a 1928 adaptation of John Gay's famous "Beggar's Opera" of 1728. The opera program will present the work in the English language version by Mark Blitzstein, a version that opened in New York in 1954 and ran for a record 2,707 performances.
The artistic director of this production is Eduardo Diazmunoz. The director is Tom Mitchell, and the conductor is Cara Chowning.
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 via email at frayne@ illinois.edu.