Prokofiev, Hahn, Lang Lang Headline CSO’s 2021-22 Return To Stage

By Keegan Morris |

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Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and CSO Chorus (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra unveiled more of its 2021-22 season, announcing its fall and holiday programming. This release elaborates on the season-launching, three-week residency of music director Riccardo Muti that was announced last month.

Hilary Hahn (Photo: Dana van Leeuwen/Decca)

Hilary Hahn begins her first season as the CSO’s inaugural artist-in-residence (Photo: Dana van Leeuwen/Decca)

In addition to the Muti-led performances previously announced, the orchestra will perform concert favorites by Beethoven, Mozart, Dvořák, and Mendelssohn, while exploring lesser-known repertoire by Augusta Holmès, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Guest conductors appearing will include Michael Tilson Thomas, Marek Janowski, and Thomas Wilkins. Conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada will conduct the orchestra and newly announced artist-in-residence Hilary Hahn (the ensemble’s first), in music by Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, and a world premiere CSO commission by Gabriela Lena Frank. Another subscription series world premiere will come in December, as Hannu Lintu conducts a performance of the CSO co-commissioned Serenades by Magnus Lindberg in a performance also featuring music by Lalo and Brahms.

The music of Prokofiev will figure prominently in these performances; as the announcement details, the distinguished 20th-century composer appeared in Chicago in 1921 to give the premiere of his own Piano Concerto No. 3 with the CSO. In commemoration, pianist Denis Matsuev will perform that same piece in a concert conducted by Tilson Thomas. Other Prokofiev highlights are to include a performance of the composer’s First Piano Concerto (also conducted by Tilson Thomas and featuring Alexander Gavrylyuk) and a recital of Prokofiev’s Sarcasms by Daniil Trifonov.

Lang Lang performs Bach’s Goldberg Variations in an early-season highlight (Photo: Gregor Hohenberg/Deutsche Grammophon)

In solo settings, the orchestra will host pianists Lang Lang, performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and Daniil Trifonov, performing music by Debussy, Brahms, and Prokofiev. Following a performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto, Leonidas Kavakos will team up with dazzling pianist Yuja Wang for a chamber recital of music by Bach, Busoni, and Shostakovich. The Quinteto Astor Piazzolla will make an appearance in mid-November to celebrate the centenary of the influential Argentine composer, whose work will also be celebrated in a performance of the Bandoneón Concerto conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero.

Holiday programming will include the returns of Chanticleer and the Vienna Boys Choir. The CSO will also present Handel’s Messiah and its annual festive concert, Merry, Merry Chicago! Nicholas McGegan will conduct for the timeless Handel oratorio, which will feature soprano Yulia Van Doren, bass-baritone Dashon Burton, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus, whose director, Duain Wolfe, will retire at the end of this season. Two family-friendly performances will be a CSO for Kids matinee led by Thomas Wilkins and a screening of Home Alone with the orchestra performing John Williams’ film score live.

Jessie Montgomery begins her tenure as composer-in-residence (Photo: Jiyang Chen)

MusicNOW, the CSO’s series of contemporary works, will have its first performance of the season in November. Programmed by the orchestra’s new composer-in-residence, Jessie Montgomery, the concert will be the season’s first presentation of Montgomery’s music and will also feature works by Nathalie Joachim, Ted Hearne, and Elijah Daniel Smith.

The Civic Orchestra of Chicago will give two performances this fall and winter. The training orchestra’s first appearance of the season, conducted by Thomas Wilkins and held in November, will feature music by Adolphus Hailstork and William Grant Still. Its second will be led by Civic principal conductor Ken-David Masur and will feature Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

The legendary Herbie Hancock will kick off the orchestra’s jazz series, appearing at Symphony Center in early September.

Given current health guidelines, audience capacity will not be limited. Masks will be required for unvaccinated patrons, and all concerts between September 2 and November 21 will last less than 90 minutes with no intermission.

For more information about the CSO’s newly announced fall and holiday programming, visit