By Lawrence A. Johnson
In his penultimate summer as the guiding artistic light of the Grant Park Music Festival, Carlos Kalmar will continue to be a podium presence even as the lakefront festival ramps up the number of guest conductors in search of a successor.
The ten-week festival will serve up its usual artful mix of orchestral favorites, rarities and contemporary works from June 14-August 19. Though in this year’s manifesto, er press release, the music at times almost seems to be an afterthought.
Even more than in past years, the city festival seems primarily focused on what it calls “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging (DEIB).”
“Fostering equitable representation in the classical music field is a priority for the Grant Park Music Festival,” the statement reads. “The 2023 season aspires to better reflect our community by presenting more works by women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).”
That applies to the booking of guest artists as well: “The Festival’s commitment to DEIB extends to fostering a more equitable environment for music professionals, including the artists who grace our stages. This season, the Grant Park Music Festival welcomes a number of gifted women and BIPOC artists.”
Performing more music by non-European composers is, of course, laudable. But booking soloists primarily on the basis of ethnic and gender bean-counting risks crossing the line from “equity” into race-conscious discrimination itself.
Kalmar will open the ten-week season June 14 leading the Grant Park Orchestra in Schumann’s Symphony No. 4, Robert Muczynski’s Symphonic Dialogues and Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 with concertmaster Jeremy Black as soloist.
Kalmar will devote the first weekend (June 16-17) to a single solo work, Dvořák’s rarely heard Stabat Mater with the esteemed Grant Park Chorus. A program of Shakespeare-inspired music will be heard on June 23-24. Other works Kalmar will conduct include Mendelssohn’s rarely heard Walpurgis Nacht, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 8, William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, and Brahms’ German Requiem.
Returning this summer are two conductors deserving of consideration as Kalmar successors: Gemma New (July 12) who will lead a program of Barber, Tchaikovsky and Vivian Fung, and David Danzmayr (Beethoven, Rodrigo and Unsuk Chin on August 2).
Conductors making their festival debuts this summer will be Jordan de Souza, Valentina Peleggi, Ludovic Morlot, Kevin John Edusei, Eric Jacobson, and Ken-David Masur.
Soloists appearing this summer are pianists Michelle Cann, Stewart Goodyear, Joyce Yang, and Stephen Hough, violinists Augustin Hadelich, Stefan Jackiw, Tai Murray, and Esther Yoo, cellist Zlatomir Fung, guitarist Aniello Desiderio, and violist Masumi Per Rostad,
Festival memberships are currently on sale. Go to grantparkmusicfestival.com
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