Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

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In September 1939, the month Germany invaded Poland, Sir Michael Tippett began composing A Child of Our Time, his best-known work. This large-scale oratorio was inspired by the horrors of Kristallnacht, when Nazi mobs broke windows of Jewish shops and burned synagogues in retaliation for the murder of a Nazi official by a 17-year-old boy whose family had been forced from their home. That boy is the child of the work's title, and Tippett's libretto portrays him as pushed to the edge by the violence and depravity around him. The events are left a little vague to lift the work into universality, and Tippett pointedly includes African-American spirituals. His arrangement of "Go Down, Moses" is exquisite, the text concerning Israel poignant. The musical style is in many ways less aggressive than the libretto; the harshest dissonance always serves the text, as when the sound sours when the word turns is sung during the opening phrase "when the world turns on its dark side." The choral writing is superb, the music is richly contrapuntal and accessible, and the suffering rarely hits you over the head. The program opens with Handel's joyful and exuberant Coronation anthems, which were composed for King George II. All these works are being performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for the first time and will be sung in English. The soloists will be soprano Nicole Cabell, mezzo Guang Yang, tenor Scott Ramsay, and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn, all seasoned members of the Lyric Opera's Center for American Artists. Sir Andrew Davis conducts. See also Sunday. Fri 6/3, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $19-$110.

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