Premiered only fifteen years after the Beethoven Ninth Symphony, Berlioz called his “Romeo and Juliet” a “dramatic symphony” though, like most things the nineteenth-century French innovator touched, there was nothing conventional about it and the work was so original that it had no real sequel until the “Faust” section of the Mahler Eighth Symphony several decades later. Although performances of the orchestral excerpts are common—including an hour-long telecast by Solti that the CSO taped in its glory days of the 1970s that was just released on DVD for the first time that will knock your socks off—performances of the entire work are still a luxury, the orchestra having performed the piece complete downtown only twice before in its century-plus long existence, under Reiner and Boulez. Russian conductor Valery Gergiev gets his turn as part of the fiftieth anniversary of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, which takes the spotlight in the colorful piece in all of its glory, along with mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard and tenor Michael Schade as the narrating star-crossed lovers and bass Laurent Naouri as Friar Lawrence. (Dennis Polkow)
Thursday, April 3 at 8pm, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, (312)294-3000. $19-$124.