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Thunder stalls, cuts short Grant Park Music Festival concert
By Andrew Patner/For Sun-Times Media
In a rare disruption at the Grant Park Music Festival, patrons were cleared from the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn on Wednesday night as rain poured down on the Millennium Park venue.
Concertgoers were directed to the East Millennium Park Garage because of a threat from lightning, a festival spokeswoman said. The Grant Park Orchestra concert resumed, about 40 minutes after the scheduled 6:30 p.m. start time, with a revision of the running order, featuring Nicolai, Mozart and Dvořák with violin soloist Stefan Jackiw.
Concerts in the Grant Park series famously go on regardless of weather, and the festival’s website urges patrons to “grab your umbrella and join the many faithful patrons who, like the musicians, show up rain or shine!”
But the site also warns, “Concerts are only canceled if weather is severe and unsafe.”
A year ago, with an hour to go before the downbeat and no reason beyond semi-hysterical weather forecasts, the City of Chicago pulled the plug on Grant Park’s opening night — with Jackiw again on the bill — by canceling all outdoor activities in Millennium Park.
It was the first time in its 79 seasons that the series lost its opening concert. No storm came to downtown, and an audience prepared for rain-or-shine performance, as well as a local radio and international web broadcast audience, lost out.
Once Jackiw had the chance to play on Wednesday, his was a strong debut even without the extra points he earned for enduring the weather and having a crowd of only 1,200 after the evacuation. The A Major Fifth (of five total) Mozart Violin Concerto, K. 219, from 1775 when the composer was still a teenager, is called the “Turkish” because of the catchy, rhythmically “Eastern” rhythms and melodies of its finale. Jackiw played this challenging section with passion, character and precision. But it was his overall success at making this whole early Classical work sound rich and Romantic without ever seeming mannered at all that was most noteworthy.
Jackiw had the audience, orchestra and conductor Carlos Kalmar wholly on his side both musically and in terms of the weather circumstances. (He even humorously mimed pouring rainwater out of his violin in the break after the concerto’s first movement.) He’s surely, in his late 20s, someone we’ll be hearing more from.
Three literally atmospheric lightning and thunderbolts in the first five minutes of the very rarely played Dvorak Third Symphony meant the festival had to stop the concert mid-measure, this time for good. (The scheduled opening overture by Otto Nicolai, the early 19th-century Russian-German composer, had already been scratched, along with an intermission, due to lost time during the evacuation.)
The disappointment on Kalmar’s face could be seen from the audience. It was clear that we were going to have had a very Czech, wholly inspired performance of this 1873 E-Flat Major work, the first symphony of Dvorak ‘s maturity. But by 7:55, it was time to go home.
The orchestra is scheduled to return Friday and Saturday with a program including, ironically enough, Handel’s “Water Music.”