Friday, December 21, 2007

Delightful Performance at the Chicago Symphony Center

Attending a performance at a world-class venue is a wonderful way of integrating into the local cultural scene. Just as a Broadway show in New York or a West End play in London should be on every avid traveler's hotlist, so should the Chicago Symphony Center in Chicago be seriously considered by all visitors and residents.

The Orchestra's 116-year history began in 1891 when Theodore Thomas, then the leading conductor in America and a recognized music pioneer, was invited by Charles Norman Fay, a Chicago businessman, to establish a symphony orchestra here.(ref The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the third oldest orchestra in the Unites States, and they play at the beautifully restored and acoustically sound (no pun intended) Orchestra Hall at the Chicago Symphony Center.

The Chicago Symphony Center is very centrally located on Adams and Michigan in downtown Chicago. There is a self-parking lot opposite the center, and a valet-parking service for $15 (check the website for details).

As soon as you enter the lobby, you are whisked off into a world of old-style elegance. Chandeliers and red carpet as well as well-heeled doormen greet you efficiently. Well-dressed patrons look around to see whose attire flatters the most. Particularly enduring are the complementary throat lozenge stands, courtesy of Walgreen's. Should you feel a bout of coughing might ruin the concentration of the musicians, feel free to grab a handful. That's what they're for.

We attended a fabulous evening of music from Rachmaninoff, Kancheli and Janacek. The acoustics of the Orchestral Hall are very impressive. The electrifying performance of Rachmaninoff's 4th piano concerto on the Steinway grand reverberated with amazing passion. The musical sadness and sweetness of the the Georgian Duduki, a native instrument, was so effectively captured by the western instruments, that it really tugged at the heartstrings.

To select a performance, simply go the website and click on the 'Season Calendar'. The process thereon is very self-explanatory, and if you're flexible about when to go (e.g. a weekday), you can get a reasonably-priced ticket. Ours cost $42 per person for a Tuesday night performance, and our seats were great too. You can select your seats online using the handy Visual Seat Selector.

As far as classical performances go, I have been lucky enough to attend the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Opera House in London, the Zürich Opera House in Zürich, Kursalon in Vienna and now the CSO in Chicago. I did stand outside the Sydney Opera House in 2004, but I guess that doesn't count. What about you? I want to hear from all those who have attended very memorable performances in some of the most beautiful classical venues around the world. Drop me a line here.

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