Smile Politely

Great music in the Great Hall

October at Urbana’s Krannert Center will feature some of the most spectacular indoor fall color of a musical variety. October 12 brings the musical brilliance of the Chicago Symphony back with a program of largely twentieth century music, and, at the end of the month, The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra will showcase masterpieces  from the early eighteenth century. 

Since the Krannert Center opened in 1969, the Chicago Symphony has performed in the Great Hall (now the Foellinger Great Hall) more than 25 times. In fact, former CSO Music Director Georg Solti loved the acoustics in Krannert so much that he recorded two of their most famous pieces—the Beethoven 9th and the Mahler 7th—in its Great Hall. The warm acoustics of the Foellinger Great Hall are a perfect match for the rich and flawless sound of the Windy City’s magnificent ensemble.

Current CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti will bring the orchestra here on October 12 for an evening including two of the twentieth century’s great works: Prokofiev’s suite from Romeo and Juliet and Paul Hindementh’s Violin concerto. These two works, sprinkled with an opening Mozart Divertimento, will make it worth taking a step into the Great Hall and looking at what makes it such a wonderful music venue.

The Great Hall is not overly large for a concert hall; it has 2,092 seats, and an acoustical warmth structured to open into a central lobby. Architect Jack Abramovitz and the former Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, Allen Weller, credit the Great Hall’s unique design and resulting wondrous sound ambiance to none other than co-patron Ellnora Krannert. As the Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich unearthed in a 1989 article, Mrs. Krannert insisted that all the theaters open to a great central lobby. Dean Weller noted, “The cordial tone of Krannert is something Mrs. Krannert insisted on.”

This cordial tone and superb acoustical ambiance may be just what The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra—better known as Apollo’s Fire—need for their period-instrument playing when they perform on October 30. Founded in 1992 by Jeannette Sorrell, this ensemble specializes in Baroque and Classical era music on the instruments for which the music was composed. When you hear five of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos on October 30, you will hear a musical time capsule featuring Ms. Sorrell on the harpsichord solos.

Apollo’s Fire has recorded some 20 CDS, including an unusual choral crossover disc, Come to the River–An Early American Gathering. Even minus the choral group, this wonderful orchestra’s lean but warm sound is ideally suited to the special acoustics of Foellinger Great Hall. 

No matter your taste in classical music, October will be a great month to celebrate the special ambiance of our Krannert Center with orchestras large and small, contemporary and historic. For further information go to the KCPA website, or call the Krannert box office at (217) 333-6200.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra photos by Todd Rosenberg; Apollo’s Fire photo by Sally Brown.

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