Grant Park Symphony Orchestra | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Grant Park Symphony Orchestra

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When it premiered in January Joseph Schwantner's Percussion Concerto received enthusiastic notices, rare for a new work by an entrenched academic (he's at the Eastman School of Music). Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for its 150th anniversary, the three-movement concerto is daunting for the soloist, requiring split-second timing and command of an arsenal of instruments. Written in the postmodern neoromantic style for which the Chicago-born, Northwestern-trained Schwantner is noted, the piece has two propulsive, ferocious outer movements that set in relief a slow, tender elegy for a young colleague. Its performances by Christopher Lamb, the Philharmonic's principal percussionist, who consulted with Schwantner on sonorities, were praised for their energy and crowd-pleasing accessibility--which will no doubt ensure the work's place in the contemporary orchestral repertoire. The concerto will be given its first local performances at this week's Grant Park Symphony Orchestra concerts, with Lamb making his downtown debut. Expect fireworks between him and orchestra percussionists. The conductor, also new to the Chicago area, is David Lockington, who was educated at Cambridge and is now affiliated with the New Mexico and Baltimore symphonies. Two other works are on the program: Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Adolphus Hailstork's American Fanfare. The eclectic Hailstork, one of our leading African-American composers, wrote his peppy, old-fashioned fanfare in 1985 to celebrate the opening of a new wing at a Virginia art gallery. Wednesday, 7 PM, and next Friday, August 18, 8 PM, Petrillo Music Shell, Grant Park, Columbus and Jackson; 819-0614.

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