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Category Archives: Thoughts from the Artistic Director

Remembering Deborah Sobol — Anthony Devroye

“It is hard to believe that a year has passed since the sudden and unexpected death of Deborah Sobol- concert pianist, visionary impressaria and founder of Rush Hour Concerts. Debbie’s career started on stage when she was a young girl, blossomed in her adopted hometown of Chicago, and led to organization-building work that had her crossing paths with a whole generation of Chicago’s emerging chamber musicians and ensembles.

The role of mentor came naturally to Debbie, and she gave freely of her boundless energy in teaching young artists how institutional strength can undergird the preservation and invigoration of the art form to which she devoted her life. One year on, the organization she founded to expand the reach of live music remains strong, and the young artists and music-lovers she mentored carry her lessons with them in diverse pursuits that contribute to the vitality of the cultural scene in Chicago and beyond.

Below you will find some reflections from a cross-section of the artists and professionals whose lives she touched.”

Click Here for more Remembrances of Deborah Sobol

Anthony Devroye
Artistic Director, Rush Hour Concerts

Thoughts from the Artistic Director: 30 Pairs of Hands

As we sit back in the fullness of Rush Hour’s August, here are a few up-to-date statistics from the 2009 season so far that I thought might be of interest to weekly audience members and first-timers alike:

  • 140 pounds of fruit and cheese, 4,000 cookies, brownies and pastries, and 3,500 glasses of wine, juice, water and tea have been prepared and offered to our audience before each concert
  • Up to 525 attendees each week have experienced the respite of Rush Hour
  • 4,500 program books have been printed and distributed
  • 49 musicians have already performed
  • 8,000 visitors have explored our website, rushhour.org

And, the final “statistic” that intersects with all of the above: the 30 pairs of hands helping to produce each weekly Rush Hour concert event – our volunteers!

Rush Hour’s volunteers are critical to its success. Each one freely offers to take part in the Rush Hour enterprise; each one, an important cog in a large production wheel. Our audience thanks our artists weekly for bringing the magic of great, live music to the magnificent space of St. James; I thank our volunteers for helping to make that experience possible for our audiences.

As we continue to serve the successful growth of Rush Hour, we need increased ranks in our volunteer base. My heartfelt gratitude to each of those “30 pairs of hands.” And my thanks in advance to any and all that decide to join this remarkable group of people in the future!

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Contact Concert Manager Ariela Rotenberg at ariela AT rushhour.org or call 773.338.9480 to sign up or to get more information about volunteering for Rush Hour.

Thoughts from the Artistic Director: The Rise of the Mixed Ensemble

Celebrating Rush Hour’s 10th anniversary this year gives me pause occasionally to stop and remember. On a recent muse, I found myself thinking back to 1983 when I was heavily involved with the envisioning and founding of The Chicago Chamber Musicians (CCM). At the time, most people’s concept of “chamber music” was a string quartet, a piano trio, or a woodwind quintet. The idea of a “mixed ensemble” – one with a variety of instruments, working and playing together like the more traditional chamber music ensembles – was novel, if not intriguing. The notion of hearing a string quartet, a piano quintet, and perhaps a piece for strings and winds together all on the same concert program caught on; people loved the variety, the expanded sound palette, the new repertoire.

CCM was one of the first “mixed ensembles” of its kind, modeling itself in part on the grandfather of this genre, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, founded in 1969. Over the last twenty some years, more and more young musicians have been following the CCM model – a group of eight to fifteen musicians representing the string, woodwind, piano and often brass families. The groups morph into smaller combinations, offering their audiences a vast expanse of repertoire. Our artists this week, Fifth House Ensemble, are one such group. It gives me great pleasure to invite them to play again on Rush Hour. I know you will enjoy their energy, enthusiasm, and spirit. And there is no better piece to showcase these attributes than Poulenc’s Sextet for piano and winds.

Enjoy!

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Thoughts from the Artistic Director: In Memory of Norman Pellegrini

Early in the morning of July 2, Chicago lost a musical icon… not a famous conductor, violinist, or opera star, but one whose voice and passion shaped more than a generation of music lovers’ access to great music in our city and beyond.

Many of you have by now read of or heard of the untimely death of Norman Pellegrini less than two weeks ago. Most of you who love music in Chicago knew him as the founding program director of WFMT, the city’s great classical music station. He didn’t just “co-found” a radio station devoted to classical music; he created a whole new way of experiencing classical music on the airways. People would turn WFMT on in the morning and leave it on all day long…thanks to Norm, it became part of the fabric of their daily lives, a continual stream of enrichment and beauty.

Others of you know his voice from the Lyric Opera radio broadcasts, which were distributed across the country.

Most of you may not know this: Norm was a key advisor to Rush Hour during its founding years. Long before Rush Hour had a board of directors, we operated with a small Advisory Committee, of which Norm was a cornerstone. He continued his perennial involvement with Rush Hour after the board’s founding as an active member of the expanded Advisory Committee, ensuring that Rush Hour maintained its commitment to the highest artistic quality possible, while broadening approaches to great music for ever-growing audiences. I worked with Norm year-round on this – it was particularly a highlight of the winter months – and I was so pleased that he came to every Rush Hour concert from the beginning, the last one being June 2 of this year, the opening concert of our 10th anniversary season.

Norm Pellegrini’s passion for music – and especially live music-making – knew no bounds. He was an artist and a friend to artists. His zeal for excellence was uncompromising; his zest for life and earthy humor contagious. Chicago’s musical life is diminished by his death – but is greatly in his debt for the richness and vibrancy of its cultural life.

Chicago has lost an icon, and Rush Hour has lost a beloved mentor and friend.

It is with great gratitude for his life and gifts that we at Rush Hour dedicate today’s concert to his memory.

Thank you, Norm. We will miss you.

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Thoughts from the Artistic Director: A Feast of Words and Music

Whenever my daughter is in town, the family is treated to great cuisine. She is an advocate of the culinary arts, or, in the vernacular, a “foodie.” Not only does she envision remarkable meals, she creates them, from start to finish. As the happy beneficiary of this process, I find myself swept up into a world of ingredients, of color, texture and of course, taste. I’ve been immersed in this intriguing world again for the last several weeks, so it was no surprise that I found myself this past weekend thinking of parallels to today’s program.

A few definitions:
Note: a single tone of definite pitch made by a musical instrument or the human voice.
Word: a distinct element of speech, used with others to form a sentence.
Music: the art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression of emotion.
Poem: a piece of writing that partakes of the nature of both speech and song that is nearly always rhythmical, usually metaphorical…something that arouses strong emotions because of its beauty.

Notes and words are like carrots and onions. They are interesting in themselves, but find remarkable transformation when combined with others of their kind in the hands and hearts of gifted women and men. Knowledge, skill, craft and passion are common ingredients (no pun intended!).

Charles Ives and George Gershwin took individual notes and made fabulous music that now resonates with everyday folk in everyday situations. Pianist James Giles brings that music to life for us today.

Poet Kevin Coval takes individual words, adds large doses of his Chicago heritage and love of family and people in general, and turns an “El” line into a living character in the ongoing play of our city.

Food, music, poetry…good things, great things, all.

One could say the same, I think, of people – interesting in themselves, but remarkable when combined in community for a larger purpose, which brings me to the final significant “ingredient” in my thoughts today: YOU!

You are the everyday people who come every week to Rush Hour, bringing your own individual sensibilities to this feast of great live music. Just as great culinary creations are useless until enjoyed by dinner guests, so too, music and poetry need humans experiencing them to fill out their expression and meaning.

Now let us all enjoy these individual ingredients and their beguiling transformation into a delightful feast for the ears and eyes!

Rush Hour @ 10: The Story of Rush Hour

In a moment of daydreaming the other day, the image of a birthday party came across my mind. It was a family event, celebrating the birthday of a younger member who had reached the ripe old age of 10. (We all remember that excitement, when, at last, we arrive in the “2 digit” years.) Family members of different backgrounds and generations surround the “birthday child” wishing him/her well, full of pride, joy, and expectations for a long and healthy life. Songs are sung, laughs are laughed, cake is eaten, memories of preceding years are shared, and future milestones are anticipated.

Now that I think about it, this was probably a “projection” daydream, as I eagerly await the launch of Rush Hour’s 10th concert season in a few weeks! The parallels are striking to me: Rush Hour is moving out of the single digits. It is surrounded at the birthday celebration by a large and diverse group of well-wishers, all of whom have had some stake in Rush Hour’s ability to arrive at this auspicious age of 10!

First comes our artist roster–each member responsible for bringing truly great music to life each week for three summer months of the last 10 years, sharing their art and themselves in weekly conversation with our audiences. Then, there’s the talented author of our weekly program notes, placing each concert in context for the veteran concertgoer and first-timer alike. Next, our board of directors, guiding the growth of Rush Hour, creating its infrastructure and stability, followed by our advisory committee of artists and community leaders, generously making themselves available as Rush Hour grows. The group continues: Chicago community foundations who have invested in us from the beginning…our indefatigable staff, working tirelessly year round to produce Rush Hour in the way our audiences have come to know and love. And of course, our audience members, whose engaged listening continues to play a vital role in the weekly “live concert experience,” and whose generous support keeps Rush Hour free and open to all, year in and year out.

Each person in this celebratory group shares a few particular characteristics: each values great music and the role it plays in human lives of any age. And each lives out a personal understanding of the maxim, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” This is the story of Rush Hour.

Thank you to all of its parts! Let the celebration begin on June 2 with the music of Mozart (his serenade for thirteen winds, made famous by the movie, “Amadeus”).

I look forward to greeting each of you all summer long!

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Recommendations from the Artistic Director: May 2009

This month, I’ve chosen an interesting mix of traditional concert venues and a few very different opportunities to hear music making. Spring is clearly in the air!

Rush Hour favorites in recital together–hear one of the few pieces of chamber music Chopin wrote: his Sonata for Cello and Piano!

Brant Taylor, cello
with Kuang-Hao Huang, piano
Tuesday, May 12, 8 p.m.
DePaul University Concert Hall, 800 W. Belden
FREE

Kodaly – Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello, Op. 8
Bach – Sonata in G, BWV 1027
Chopin – Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 65

I am intrigued and impressed with this bold musical event with a social service twist. Sounds like a lot of fun!

Central City Housing Ventures Rent Party
Friday, May 29, 5-8 p.m.
Fourth Presbyterian Church, Michigan Ave. at Chestnut St.
$25 in advance, $35 at the door (Contact Duncan Moore at 773-477-4312 or Duncan.Moore AT sbcglobal.net)
Jazz by the Lucy Smith Trio with libations of beer, wine, and appetizers

This event is helping create a rent lifeline fund to help residents of The Studios, a single-room-occupancy, supported-living apartment house operated by Central City Housing Ventures. Every dollar contributed goes directly toward rent forgiveness for those who have lost their jobs or been furloughed.

Another favorite Rush Hour artist, Bernard Zinck’s programs feature the unusual with the well-known, always a pleasure for the audience!

Masterworks for Violin
Bernard Zinck, violin
Patrick Godon, piano
Sunday, May 10, 3 p.m.
St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St.
$10 requested donation

Szymanowski – Sonata in d minor, Op. 9
Harrison – Grand Duo for Violin and Piano
Fauré – Sonata in A Major, Op. 13

This is what I love about Chicago: musical opportunities popping up in all sorts of venues and circumstances. Read on:

Hidden Talent 2
Friday, May 15, 12:15 p.m.
Harold Washington Library Center, Cindy Pritzker Auditorium – 400 S. State Street
FREE

Six patrons of the HWLC’s 8th Floor Music Practice rooms are moving from “unseen and unheard” to the stage of the Pritzker Auditorium. Peter Beck, trombone; Claudius Edwards, piano; Robert Frenier, tenor voice; Jean Marie Garofolo, coloratura soprano voice; Sara Su Jones, violin; and Dan Windolph, clarinet, will be sharing their talent with the rest of the city.

Fulcrum Point never disappoints in its unique programming. This is a great program, with free tickets!

Fulcrum Point New Music Project
Tuesday, May 19, 7:30 p.m.
Thorne Auditorium at Northwestern University, 375 E. Chicago
RSVP is required to redeem your e-ticket (up to 4 per RSVP) by emailing RSVP5-19 AT fulcrumpoint.org with full contact information before May 15

A rare collaboration featuring Stephen Burns and the Fulcrum Point New Music Project with Hong Kong’s own Chinese Music Virtuosi, plus special appearances by Thodos Dance Chicago and the Bei Dou Kung Fu Troupe. A one-night-only old & new Chinese music concert experience celebrating the “HONG KONG COMES TO CHICAGO 2009” Festival!

Finally, the closing concert of  the “Music for Peace” festival in Chicago, presented by a combination of students and world-class artists:

Music for Peace Festival – Closing Concert
Saturday, May 16, 7:30 p.m.
St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St.
FREE

Featuring the Peace Chamber Ensemble, the Music for Peace Festival Orchestra, and Van Steuben High School Choir, with soloists Alex Klein, Richard Young, and Deborah Wanderley dos Santos

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Rush Hour @ 10: The Group to Watch

One of the most exciting developments to me over the last few years at Rush Hour has been watching the size of the under-40 demographic in our weekly audience grow to 20%. Anyone in the classical music world knows this is an impressive figure. To me, it’s inspiring. And the source of that inspiration is Rush Hour’s Fanfare, a group that started small and has grown to over forty members in the last year. Fanfare is Rush Hour’s herald, trumpeting news of Rush Hour’s “great music for busy lives” across the city each summer and throughout the off-season.

What does a typical Fanfare member look like?
– Culturally curious
– Between the ages of 20 and 40
– Doesn’t have a lot of time but wants to make a difference
– Relishes Chicago’s city life (especially in the summer!)

In my career as a performing artist over the last four decades, I have seen audience demographics buffeted about on the tides of social change, educational atrophy, and the competition of universal access to music that is not live. I have campaigned vigorously over the last two decades on behalf of the relevance of great music in all of our lives. I’ve continually refuted the myths that wearing a powdered wig or belonging to some sort of elite club are required for connection to this music to happen, maintaining that all anyone needs are their humanity and ears as entry points. For years, I have watched young adults being thrown into the center of this sociological conversation.

Imagine how heartening it is for me, then, to see emerging from Rush Hour’s accessible, practical concert format, a group of young professionals who not only promote the mission of Rush Hour and support its admission-free policy financially, but are also paving the way for the future of this series a decade from now. Fanfare is truly a herald: a sign that something is about to happen, ushering in a new paradigm of concertgoing and arts philanthropy.

Rush Hour’s 10th anniversary season starts June 2. Expect big things from Fanfare. They will be the group to watch. They have certainly played a major role in bringing their age demographic to the uplifting, energizing experience of live, great classical music, which is Rush Hour’s hallmark. They inspire my work as its artistic director, and, for that, they have my gratitude.

Bravo, Fanfare!

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Recommendations from the Artistic Director: April 2009

April is replete with great musical offerings. Here are three at the top of my list:

Rembrandt Chamber Players’ exploration of Mahler’s works arranged by Schoenberg for chamber ensemble gives a glimpse into Schoenberg’s Society for Private Musical Performances to preserve and perform important music of its day. “Songs of a Wayfarer” with Douglas Anderson will be a special treat for anyone who follows this fine baritone’s work with Music of the Baroque.

Sunday, April 19, 3:00 p.m.
Gottlieb Hall, Merit School of Music, 38 S. Peoria St.
$40 adult / $15 student

All Beethoven programs continue to draw music lovers of all generations. The Chicago Chamber Musicians’ “Only One Beethoven” offers a superb overview of his variety in the world of chamber music: a string quartet, piano trio and woodwind sextet. The “Ghost” piano trio, op. 71, is one of the two most popular of Beethoven’s piano trios. This is a program not to be missed!

Sunday, April 19 & Monday, April 20, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday – Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University
Monday – Gottlieb Hall, Merit School of Music
$16-$40 adult / $10 student

For those who like to spot young and rising talent, I recommend the “Young, Gifted and Stellar” choral musicians from the Merit School of Music, performing at St. James Cathedral. The young voices in the magnificent space of St. James will surely transport you to angelic realms!

Saturday, April 25, 7:00 p.m.
St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St.
Freewill offering

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Recommendations from the Artistic Director: March/early April 2009

With winter now officially behind us, the incentive to “get out and about” increases. The next several weeks are rich in excellent musical and cultural events. Here are a few of my favorites:

A lush afternoon of music from three of the great French composers of the late 19th and 20th centuries:

A Lenten Choral Concert
The Cathedral Choir, Soloists, and The Chamber Orchestra of St. James
Bruce J. Barber II, conductor
Sunday, March 22, 3 p.m.
St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St.
Requested donation: $15 (Children under 12 are FREE)

Maurice Durufle: Quatre Motets Sur Des Thèmes Grégoriens
Francis Poulenc: Litanies à la Vierge noire
Gabriel Fauré: Requiem

A lunchtime interlude of 18th century Italian music:

The Chicago Chamber Musicians’ First Monday Series
Monday, April 6, 12:15 p.m.
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington
FREE

Francesco Geminiani Sonata for Oboe in E Minor
Michael Henoch, oboe
Thomas Wikman, harpsichord

Domenico Cimarosa Quartetto No. 6 in a minor
Michael Henoch, oboe
Jasmine Lin, violin
Rami Solomonow, viola

Poetry reading and discussion with Inaugural Poet Elizabeth Alexander, presented by RH community partner The Poetry Foundation:

Poetry Off the Shelf: Elizabeth Alexander
Wednesday, April 8, 6 p.m.
Rubloff Auditorium – Art Institute of Chicago
280 South Columbus Drive (Enter on Columbus at Monroe)
FREE

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and professor. The author of five books of poems, including The Venus Hottentot (1990) and the Pulitzer Prize finalist American Sublime (2005), she’s been awarded the 2007 Jackson Prize for Poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the George Kent Award, given by Gwendolyn Brooks, and a Guggenheim fellowship. During President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration, she read her poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” now available as a chapbook by Graywolf Press. She currently teaches in the Department of African American Studies at Yale University.

Finally, for those of you who appreciate sacred music at this time of year—whether for historical or religious purposes—the music programmed by Bruce Barber at St. James Cathedral for the week of April 5 – 12 (Palm Sunday – Easter in the Christian tradition) is always remarkable, informative and uplifting.

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Rush Hour @ 10: Introducing the 2009 Season

A week or so ago, we had Groundhog Day, which forecast six more weeks of winter. Despite the bad news of the little furry creature, I was optimistic: I had only to look at the tips of the maple trunks outside my studio window and the sky at 4:30 p.m. to know that spring is indeed around the corner. In fact, it’s been well underway since December 22, when we gained a millisecond more daylight than on the shortest day of the year, December 21!

Here in the land of Rush Hour, we all know what spring means: that summer is not far behind. Remember summer? The azure waters of Lake Michigan, the volleyball leagues on the beaches off Lake Shore Drive, folk walking down Michigan Avenue toward Oak Street beach in their swim togs, and, of course, Tuesdays! Tuesdays at 5:15 p.m.–every Tuesday from June through August–Rush Hour will be bringing you great music for busy lives.

I am happy to report that Rush Hour’s 10th anniversary season is off to the printers! As promised last month, I have posted it here for all to see first hand.

Our 2009 season holds the potential to top all previous seasons in variety, scope and number of artists. Our repertoire ranges from French Baroque to compositions created in honor of Rush Hour’s 10th anniversary. The season opens with clarinetist Larry Combs at the helm of Mozart’s “Gran Partita,” the woodwind serenade for 13 instruments (made famous in the movie Amadeus) and closes with the dynamic and innovative Third Coast Percussion. In between, we will travel to France, Germany and Switzerland with our consulate sponsors, including Couperin on Bastille Day, Bach with Bruce Barber–back by popular demand–and an eclectic program for tenor saxophone and organ featuring two of Switzerland’s most spirited composer/performers.

Ravel’s ravishing Piano Trio, Poulenc’s raucous Sextet for piano and winds, Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in d minor, and Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 12 arranged for brass quintet reflect the “bread and butter” of classic chamber music repertoire.

Chicago poet Kevin Coval, now renowned for his Chicago-centric, social justice artistry will pair with pianist James Giles in a program celebrating “Everyday People,” as Kevin reads from his book of the same title, to the music of George Gershwin and Charles Ives. WIRED, the flutes of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), will be bringing us a dynamic combination of classic and contemporary duos. And, CSO principal oboist Eugene Izotov will be joining CSO cellist Katinka Kleijn and organist David Schrader for a program of baroque music.

Last but not least, the program voted most popular by RH audiences last summer to be repeated in celebration of our 10th anniversary year: An encore of 2007’s “A Cello Celebration,” now expanded to 8 celli and soprano in Villa Lobos’ arrestingly beautiful Bachian Brasileira, No. 5 with members of the CSO and Lyric Opera cello sections and soprano Maire O’Brien, conducted by Michael Mulcahy.

As the snow continues to melt, let us think about bulbs sprouting, temperatures warming, and the vibrancy of summer in Chicago just a few months away. Dust off your sunscreen and mark Tuesday evenings from 5:15-6:15 in your calendars now!

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Recommendations from the Artistic Director: February 2009

There’s still plenty of great music to enjoy this month–here are 3 recommendations that span genres AND the metropolitan area:

The University of Chicago Presents has a fantastic evening of music next Friday:

Takács Quartet
with Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Friday, February 20, 7:30 p.m.
Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th Street

Haydn: String Quartet in G major, op. 77, no. 1
Bartók: String Quartet No. 5, BB 110
Schumann: Piano Quintet in E-flat major, op. 44

Click here for tickets or more information.

For those of you interested in supporting a worthwhile world development project on the wings of a wonderfully entertaining vocal performer:

A Benefit Concert to Help Save Mothers’ Lives
Sunday, February 22, 4 p.m.
Christ Church Chapel, 470 Maple Street (at corner of Oak), Winnetka, IL
Suggested minimum donation: $25 per person

Join nationally renowned singer Claudia Schmidt and MacArthur Fellow Dr. Funmi Olopade at a concert and conversation to help save mothers’ lives.

RSVP to Imagine Chicago at 773-275-2520 or ubumama@imaginechicago.org
Reservations will be held at the door.

Choral splendor featuring Hoss Brock, heard frequently in RH vocal concerts:

Music of the Baroque
Bach’s Mass in B Minor
Monday, February 23, 7:30 p.m.
Harris Theatre

Nicholas Kraemer, conductor
Amy Conn, soprano
Tove Dahlberg, mezzo-soprano
Harold Brock, tenor
Thomas Meglioranza, baritone

Click here for tickets or more information.

Enjoy the music!

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Thoughts & Recommendations from the Artistic Director: January 2009

“Children are given Mozart because of the small quantity of notes; grown-ups avoid Mozart because of the great quality of the notes.”
– pianist Artur Schnabel (1882-1951): My Life and Music (1961)

While January marks the birth of a new year, it has been about Mozart for me for as long as I can remember (only to be overtaken on the 31st by Franz Schubert’s birthday).

Mozart’s 253rd birthday is January 27th. I’d be a fool to attempt to add to the world’s body of knowledge and experience of Mozart. Bits of trivia pop up from time to time, like the facts that in a string of seven children, only he and his sister Nannerl survived, and that his full name was Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. I love the “Theophilus” part of his name, from the Greek, meaning “beloved of God” or “friend of God.” (I think the Creator knew the world would need Mozart for all time, to be both grounded in its humanity and reminded of the possibility of the Divine.) Theophilus becomes “Amadeus” in Latin and the world now knows him as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It is that middle name, Amadeus, which accounts for why people beyond the traditional confines of classical music know about Mozart. In 1979, Peter Shaffer wrote a stage play, “Amadeus,” about the lives of 18th century composers Antonio Salieri and Mozart. Mr. Shaffer then wrote a screenplay, and in 1984, joined by director Milos Forman, actors F. Murray Abraham (as Salieri), Tom Hulce (as Mozart), and Elizabeth Berridge (as Mozart’s wife, Constanza), the hit movie “Amadeus” was born.

One of the most poignant scenes in the movie, and for many, the words which maybe best describe Mozart’s music, is the scene where Salieri first sees a score of Mozart’s. It is the third movement, the Adagio, from his Serenade no. 10 in B flat, K.361/370a “Gran Partita”, the opening of which, even today (no matter how often you may have heard it) makes you stop whatever you are doing… and listen. (This happened to me, just a few minutes ago!)

And, just as the arresting melodies of that Adagio wind through and around each other, I am now winding my way to connect Mozart, anniversaries, “Amadeus” and Rush Hour:

2009 marks Rush Hour’s 10th birthday. When I asked my colleague of many years and Rush Hour advisory committee member Larry Combs how he thought we should mark the occasion, he suggested we open the season on June 2, 2009, with a performance of Mozart’s “Gran Partita.” I couldn’t be more excited! This great woodwind serenade for 13 instruments (2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 basset horns, 4 horns and one contrabass), written by Mozart at age 25, will resound in the eaves of RH’s home, St. James Cathedral. Larry will be joined by colleagues from the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the CSO, and other eminent wind players from Chicago. (Click here for a download of the second movement of the “Gran Partita” by CCM.) I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate the beginning of RH’s 10th year of “Great Music for Busy Lives.”

Next month, I’ll announce the complete 10th anniversary season, and throughout the coming winter and spring months, I’ll talk with colleagues, RH advisors, and audience members about the last ten years and their thoughts going forward.

Now, to my recommendations for the rest of January:

Music will play an important role in the Presidential Inauguration next Tuesday, January 20. Of special note is a new composition by John Williams that will be performed by violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Gabriela Montero, and clarinetist Anthony McGill. The ceremony will begin at 9:00 a.m. CST and will be broadcast on all major TV channels, as well as online.

There are still three excellent concerts at Northwestern’s Winter Chamber Music Festival; for more details and tickets, visit the Pick-Staiger website.

Friday, January 16 – 7:30 PM
Antonin Dvorák, String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat Major, Op. 105
Franz Schubert, String Quintet in C Major, Op. 163
Cassatt Quartet (Muneko Otani and Jennifer Leshnower, violin; Michiko Oshima, viola; Nicole Johnson, cello); Marc Johnson, cello

Sunday, January 18 – 7:30 PM
Bohuslav Martinu, Duo for Violin and Cello
Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor, Op. 19
Felix Mendelssohn, Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66
Shmuel Ashkenasi, violin; Marc Johnson, cello; Andrea Swan, piano

Friday, January 23 – 7:30 PM
Johannes Brahms, Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 40
Béla Bartók, Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano
Ludwig van Beethoven, Septet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Clarinet, Horn, and Bassoon in E-flat Major, Op. 20
James Giles and Robert McDonald, piano; Joseph Genualdi and Gerardo Ribeiro, violin; Catherine Brubaker, viola; Stephen Balderston, cello; Michael Hovnanian, bass; Steven Cohen, clarinet; Christopher Millard, bassoon; Gail Williams, horn

Finally, Fulcrum Point combines music, literature, and dance to explore the world’s most ancient archetypes in “Modern Myths” on Tuesday, January 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater. Mention promo #3399 and get two-for-one tickets. Click here for more details and tickets.

Happy New Year,
Happy Birthday Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
Happy 10th Birthday, Rush Hour!

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director

Thoughts & Recommendations from the Artistic Director: December 2008

December is always frenetic. This year is no exception. It may, perhaps, break all previous records. My tried and true antidotes to this “non-stop/never-have-enough time” condition are to give into the early darkness and chill – no, cold – in the air, to sit back and listen: to good friends and colleagues in conversation, to great music, to words of fine minds. This month, I’m sharing a bit of all three of these with you, in hopes that it will slow down your frenetic pace (in the way Rush Hour does during the long summer days). One additional tip: a glass of sherry or Grand Marnier alongside for extra inner warmth!

My favorite music to revisit each December is Concentus Musicus Wien’s recording of Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” which features the beatific voices of the Vienna Boys Choir, all under the superb direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt. It’s not December in my household unless this glorious music is filling every room!

There are many old favorite books to recommend at this time of year. This year, however, I find myself enthralled in Alice Waters’ wonderful volume, “The Art of Simple Food.” Since a good 50% of Rush Hour each week is devoted to food and epicurean themes, I feel it’s a valid entry here!

And now, to my concert recommendations:

Saturday, December 13 – 7:00 p.m.
St. James Cathedral
Christmas at the Cathedral
Corelli, Christmas Concerto
Handel, Messiah (Part 1)
The Cathedral Choir, Soloists and Chamber Orchestra of St. James
Bruce J. Barber II, conductor
$20 requested donation

Sunday, December 21 – 3:00 p.m. and Monday, December 22 – 7:00 p.m.
Civic Opera House
33rd Annual Bank of America Do-It-Yourself Messiah, sponsored by the International Music Foundation
Complimentary tickets available

Sunday, December 7 – 3:00 p.m. (Evanston) and Monday, December 8 – 7:30 p.m. (Merit School of Music)
Rembrandt Chamber Players
Vivaldi: Selections from The Four Seasons
Brahms: Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano
Bach: Aria from Cantata No. 182
Mozart: Quintet for Clarinet and Strings
Tickets: $30 (adult) / $10 (student)

Happy and safe holidays, everyone!

– Deborah Sobol

Artistic Director

Thoughts & Recommendations from the Artistic Director: November 2008

I’ve noticed of late that there seems to be an increased focus on young people in our contemporary lives, going beyond the usual cultural obsession with youth and the ubiquitous consumer marketing to that demographic. The national dialogue of the last many months in the political campaigns seems to include the presence of young adults in unprecedented ways. Equally, they are referenced and involved in some of the most pressing issues of our times, whether economic, educational or environmental. As founder and artistic director of an arts organization grounded in the reality of contemporary life, it has always been most gratifying to me to witness the role young adults have played from the beginning.

Our ’08 season is a fine example: Our artistic roster spanned the generations – from high school to internationally acclaimed veteran artists, including young composer Clancy Newman. 20% of our regular, weekly audiences were under the age of 40. This is a stunning statistic for a new arts organization devoted to great classical music. Many of these folk were so excited about Rush Hour and its mission that they formed an auxiliary board – the Fanfare Committee – to help spread the word of RH to their contemporaries and contribute to the annual work of keeping RH’s entire season free and open to all. Their presence at our weekly summer series and their work year-round is an important part of the RH engine.

The presence of young people in RH reflects an inclusive vision of community, with the power of great music identifying common human qualities in need of regular inspiration and nourishment. The music is powerful and the energy contagious.

Before I offer my concert recommendations for this month, I’d like to share the thoughts of author David W. Barber from his humorous book, If It Ain’t Baroque… More Music History As It Ought To Be Taught, on the challenges of the term “classical music”:

“The problem is no one’s been able to come up with a better term, or at least a better term people are willing to accept. Some people call it “art” music, to distinguish it from “popular” music – as if to imply that Bach shouldn’t be popular, or that there’s no artistry in the Beatles… Some people will tell you there are a lot of different types of music. But there are really only two: good music and bad music.”

And, at Rush Hour, there is “Great Music for Busy Lives.”

In your busy lives this month, you might want to make time for these great concerts:

Thursday, November 13 – 7:00 p.m.
St. James Cathedral
The Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra
David Katz, music director and conductor
Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor
Free admission

Monday, November 10 – 12:15 p.m.
Preston Bradley Hall (Chicago Cultural Center)
Third Coast Percussion
Music of Cage & L. Ligeti
Free admission

Wednesday, November 19 (Symphony Center), Thursday, November 20 (Evanston), and Saturday, November 22 (Hyde Park) – 7:30 p.m.
Baroque Band
The Temple of Apollo
Tickets: $30 (regular)/ $27 (seniors)/ $15 (student)

Saturday, November 8 and Sunday, November 9 – 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier
The Chicago Chamber Musicians
November 8-9 Family Concert – Leaping Leopold! The Mozart Show
Tickets: $18 (adult) / $15 (12 and under)

Sunday, November 16 (Evanston) and Monday, November 17 (Merit School of Music) – 7:30 p.m.
The Chicago Chamber Musicians
November 16-17 Subscription Series
Böhme: Sextet for Brass in E-Flat Minor, Op. 30
Bruce Broughton: Hudson River Valley
Dvorák: Piano Trio in F Minor, Op. 65
Tickets: $16 – 40 (adult)/ $10 (student)

Wednesday, November 12 – 7:30 p.m.
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
Fulcrum Point
Soundtracks in New-Art Music
Tickets: $50 – 75 (adult) / $25 (students & seniors)

And don’t forget the following two regular events:

The Dame Myra Hess weekly free lunchtime series at The Chicago Cultural Center, every Wednesday at 12:15 p.m., presented by the International Music Foundation.

The Chicago Chamber Musicians’ First Monday lunchtime concerts, also at the Chicago Cultural Center at 12:15 the first Monday of each month.

– Deborah Sobol
Artistic Director