That's why they have packed the 2004 Grant Park Music Festival with something for every listening persuasion, from classical masterworks to Broadway favorites to Latin jazz. That music lovers can hear the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, guest artists and superb concerts for free makes the 70th Grant Park season the best summer bargain in town.
The inaugural concert of the Pritzker Pavilion, 7:30 p.m. Friday, features the orchestra and chorus under principal conductor Carlos Kalmar. The gala program was designed to showcase Chicago favorites Rachel Barton, violin; Valentina Lisitsa, piano; David Schrader, harpsichord; Jonita Lattimore and Elizabeth Norman, sopranos. Highlighting the concert will be the world premiere of John Corigliano's "Midsummer Fanfare," a Grant Park commission that's part of a summer-long tribute to the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer.
Choral music buffs won't want to miss the July 23 and 25 concerts when Nicholas Kraemer conducts Gabriel Faure's sublime Requiem, along with Baroque fare by Rameau and Handel. Even so, the heavy choral action happens in August. Grant Park chorus master Christopher Bell will lead William Walton's splashy oratorio, "Belshazzar's Feast," on Aug. 13 and 14. And Benjamin Britten's stirring "War Requiem" gets a rare Chicago performance Aug. 20 and 21, Kalmar conducting a stage packed with vocal soloists, choruses and orchestra.
The pavilion's new sound system will allow Grant Park to present works new to the festival, including Anton Bruckner's mighty Symphony No. 9, which James Paul will conduct July 28 and 30. The principal guest conductor also will direct classic film scores on the annual Venetian Night concert, July 31.
Opera returns to Grant Park on Aug. 4 when members of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists will present a concert version of Puccini's comedy, "Gianni Schicchi" under Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu.
The season will conclude Aug. 27 and 29 with the Chicago premiere of Corigliano's "Red Violin" Concerto, with Barton assuming the solo duties. Kalmar will round out the program with Gustav Mahler's First Symphony; there could be no more appropriate music to celebrate the wonders of the great outdoors.