Starting Tuesday, June 6, Chicagoans working downtown can get a free dose of chamber music at the end of their Tuesday workdays. Running through August 29, Rush Hour Concerts returns for its 18th season of weekly, musical getaways in the splendorous confines of St. James Cathedral. Hosted by the International Music Foundation, Rush Hour Concerts are always free and run for 30 minutes. This year July 4 falls on a Tuesday, so that week’s concert will be on Wednesday, July 5.
Five of the concerts comprise a Quartet Festival showcasing five local ensembles. The first festival concert starts this Tuesday with the Kontras Quartet playing Haydn’s excellent String Quartet in G-major, Op. 33 no. 5, and Dan Visconti’s Black Bend. The next Quartet Festival offering will be the Avalon String Quartet playing Shostakovich on June 20, which will be followed by the Grammy Award nominated Spektral Quartet performing Gerard McBurney’s Hildegard Quartet on July 11, and the Euclid Quartet performing Edward Grieg’s moody string quartet on August 1.
The last Quartet Festival concert will feature members of the Civitas Ensemble playing assorted movements from Johannes Brahms’ four marvelous quintets, where the basic string quartet is joined by an extra viola, clarinet, or piano. There are a wealth of options to fill the half hour program on August 15.
Other noteworthy concerts include duets by Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Brant Taylor and pianist Kuang-Hao Huang playing a program on June 13 to be determined by the audience. New music and poetry will fill the air on July 25, when Ensemble Dal Niente joins forces with poet Richie Hofmann. Lovers of vocal music can hear American art songs, show tunes, and spirituals sung by baritone Robert Sims on Wednesday, July 5. Members of the Lyric Opera’s Ryan Opera Center will perform selections from George Bizet’s opera TheKingfishers on August 8. St. James Cathedral’s massive organ pipe, played by Stephen Buzzard, will be joined by Axiom Brass on August 22.
The Rush Hour Concerts series ends the following week with the Rush Hour Concerts Chamber Orchestra, conducted by John McFarlane, playing Gustav Mahler’s orchestral arrangement of Beethoven’s String Quartet in F-minor, Op. 95. Anyone who lays their fingers on a Beethoven masterpiece is playing with fire, but Mahler demonstrated immense insight when he modified the orchestration of the Seventh Symphony by, among other things, substituting trumpets for French horns, and vice-versa. It should be very interesting to hear how he orchestrates this emotional quartet.
Rush Hour Concerts take place at the St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron St., every Tuesday, June 6 through August 29, at 5:45pm, except the July 4 concert will take place on Wednesday, July 5. Pre-concert beverage receptions will take place at 5:15.