First stop on the SF Symphony’s American Mavericks tour: Chicago. It’s the first visit here by the orchestra in 10 years, and the city has put on its spring best: the day we arrived, it was one degree shy of Chicago’s record high temperature for March – 87 degrees. Millenium Park is in full bloom, Orchestra Hall was full of young people hearing the orchestra for the first time, and Chicagoland celebrated the end of winter.
Our hosts at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra welcomed us graciously. This storied hall, built in 1904, has the words “Theodore Thomas Orchestra Hall” inscribed on the front, after the CSO’s first music director; no relation to MTT.
The orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas played John Adams’ Absolute Jest with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, who were roundly cheered when they came out to join the musicians on stage. Although this music was performed for the very first time just a few days ago in San Francisco, the musicians played it with such commitment, energy, and passion, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a piece they must know by heart.
Chris Costanza of the St. Lawrence String Quartet warms up backstage before the SF Symphony performance
The second half of the concert was devoted to Charles Ives’ A Concord Symphony, which MTT and the Orchestra recorded and released on CD. The music of the great American Maverick composer is becoming a calling card for the Symphony.
After the performance, the CSO musicians had a party for the San Francisco Symphony musicians backstage, in the musicians’ lounge. The orchestra world is a fairly small world, and a lot of these musicians know each other, but they rarely see one another — unless they’re on tour. (The SFS hosted the CSO in San Francisco for the first time in many years in February).
The Chicago Tribune’s business columnist Phil Rosenthal wrote yesterdaythat apparently too few people think of this city as a travel and tourism destination. Or, worse, they don’t think of the city at all. Me? I’m smitten, nursing a *serious* crush on Chicago.