From Pacifica to 'The Passenger,' plenty of classical music to offset winter's chill

A varied classical menu to warm Chicago classical buffs in winter

Chicago's classical music producers typically reserve some of the most important events of their seasons for the period from January to early May. Here are 10 such performances, listed chronologically:

Winter Chamber Music Festival: The 19th annual edition of the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music's celebration of instrumental music holds six concerts by the Lincoln, Dover and New Orford string quartets; Dogma Chamber Orchestra; Bienen faculty and Chicago Symphony Orchestra members; and guest artists. Friday to Jan. 25; Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston; $10-$26; 847-467-4000, pickstaiger.org

Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti: The music director continues his Scriabin and Tchaikovsky symphony cycles with the former composer's First, Second and Third symphonies, and the latter's First ("Winter Daydreams"), Second ("Little Russian") and Sixth ("Pathetique"). Two very different choral masterpieces, Mozart's Requiem and Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky," also highlight Muti's winter residencies. Jan. 15-27 and Feb. 19-March 7; Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $37-$249; 312-294-3000, cso.org

Contempo: The Contemporary Chamber Players has been enriching the Chicago musical scene for 50 years. Marking the golden anniversary will be commissioned world premieres by John Eaton, Sofia Gubaidulina and Gunther Schuller; a joint concert by University of Chicago resident ensembles eighth blackbird and the Pacifica Quartet, and more. Dates include Jan. 24, March 1 and April 23; Logan Center Performance Hall, 915 E. 60th St.; $5-$25; 773-702-2787, contempo.uchicago.edu

Wagner's "Tannhauser," Lyric Opera of Chicago: It's been 27 long years since Lyric last ventured Wagner's masterpiece, and the company isn't skimping on the vocal goods. The Tim Albery production (from London's Royal Opera, Covent Garden) will reunite the stars of Lyric's 2011 "Lohengrin": tenor Johan Botha, portraying the minstrel Tannhauser, and soprano Amber Wagner, as the saintly Elisabeth. Lyric's resident Wagnerian, music director Andrew Davis, will conduct. Feb. 9-March 6; Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $20-$244; 312-827-5600, lyricopera.org

Tobias Picker: "Therese Raquin," Chicago Opera Theater: The American composer distills Emile Zola's scandalous novel into a sensuous brew of illicit passion, murder, guilt and retribution. General director Andreas Mitisek conducts COT's 2015 season opener. Feb. 20-28; Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St.; $35-$125; 312-704-8414, chicagooperatheater.org

Mieczyslaw Weinberg's "The Passenger," Lyric Opera: This will be the Chicago premiere of the Polish composer's gripping opera about an Auschwitz inmate and the woman who was her overseer at the Nazi death camp, and how the horrors of the Holocaust can impact on the present. David Pountney's production stars Daveda Karanas and Amanda Majeski, with Andrew Davis conducting. Feb. 24-March 15; Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; $20-$244; 312-827-5600, lyricopera.org

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: The prodigious French pianist has long been considered the definitive interpreter of the knotty piano works of his longtime colleague and associate, Pierre Boulez. He is joined by pianist Tamara Stefanovich for an all-Boulez program to honor the modernist master in the month of Boulez's 90th birthday. March 15; Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $25-$50; 312-294-3000, cso.org

"Centenary Weekend – The Crossroads of World War I and Music": A three-day series of concerts and lectures commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Great War and the momentous turning point it represented for the arts in the early 20th century. Artists include the Pacifica Quartet, violinist Arnaud Sussmann and pianist Orion Weiss. April 10-12; University of Chicago; $15-$35; 773-702-2787, chicagopresents.uchicago.edu

Northbrook Symphony Orchestra: Music director Lawrence Rapchak wraps up his three-year cycle of works written in Gustav Mahler's shadow with an intriguing rarity: Czech composer Josef Foerster's richly romantic Symphony No. 4 ("Easter Eve," 1905), in what is billed as its North American premiere. April 12; Sheely Center for the Performing Arts, Glenbrook North High School, 2300 Shermer Road, Northbrook; $8-$50; 847-272-0755, thenso.org

Chicago Symphony Orchestra – "Reveries and Passions": French music of the theater will be the focus of this year's three-week spring festival. Guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen will preside over concert versions of Debussy's operatic masterpiece "Pelleas et Melisande" and Ravel's charming opera "L'Enfant et les sortileges," along with Debussy's rarely heard cantata "La demoiselle elue," Messiaen's sprawling "Turangalila" Symphony and other works. May 7-23; Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.; $29-$212; 312-294-3000, cso.org

jvonrhein@tribpub.com

Twitter @jvonrhein

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