It would be difficult to imagine a more striking contrast than CSO music-director-designate Riccardo Muti’s performances of the Verdi “Requiem” last January and his rendition of Brahms’ “A German Requiem” last week. With Verdi, Muti was in his element and the result was an experience as exciting as it was poignant and prayerful. With Brahms, Muti was in way over his head and was unable to make sense of Brahms’ intentions, which were to offer comfort and conciliation. In Muti’s hands, the usually foolproof work which even amateur choral societies can usually bring off, fell decidedly flat. Not only was this the slowest and most turgid traversal of the work imaginable, but there was little by way of dynamic contrast, to say nothing of heart. This was a cold, cold, cold performance that showed us that decades of leading operas at La Scala is no guarantee that Muti will triumph just because the forces are expansive. This week, Lyric Opera principal conductor Sir Andrew Davis heads across town to conduct the world premiere of James Primosch’s “Songs for Adam,” a thirty-minute song cycle with baritone Brian Mulligan that forms a sequel to his 2002 “From a Book of Hours,” also commissioned and premiered by the CSO. Also on the program are Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony No. 3 and Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks.” (Dennis Polkow)
8pm October 29, 1:30pm October 30, 8pm October 31, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, (312)294-3000. $18-$199.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org