Jean-Yves Thibaudet in an encore performance of Ravel’s “Pavane pour une infante defunte” following Saint-Saëns’ “Fifth Piano Concerto (Egyptian)” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Paris will be hosting the Olympic Games this summer, but if you are in search of what might easily be dubbed the Olympics of French classical music, you have no need to purchase an airline ticket. Simply head to Orchestra Hall, writes WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss.

CSO principal percussionist Cynthia Yeh in the CSO-commissioned, world-premiere performance of Jessie Montgomery’s “Procession” with conductor Manfred Honeck and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Todd Rosenberg)

Cynthia Yeh, who has been the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s principal percussionist since 2007, can make wonderfully expressive music by playing on nothing more than a bunch of clay flowerpots, writes WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss.

Martin Helmchen in a performance of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Kazuki Yamada. (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

In a recent performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, German pianist Martin Helmchen displayed fabulous speed-of-light fingering at one moment and lyrical grace the next, writes WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss.

Violinist Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a CSO first subscription concert performance of Kreisler’s “Liebesleid.” (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The sound that filled Orchestra Hall during a recent CSO performance was absolutely glorious as Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, the Danish-born conductor and violinist, did double duty, writes WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss.

Conductor Klaus Makela performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Orchestra Hall on April 14, 2022. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg photography)

Klaus Mäkelä has been called “perhaps the fastest-rising conductor of his generation” by The New York Times. He will be the 11th music director in the ensemble’s 133-year history.

CSO principal flute Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson in the CSO-commissioned, world premiere performance of Liebermann’s “Flute Concerto No. 2” with conductor Susanna Mälkki and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Todd Rosenberg)

The CSO invariably generates pure musical magic, and it is undeniably one of the greatest cultural treasures of this city, and far beyond, writes WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss.

Conductor Gemma New makes her CSO debut and leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program featuring works by Kernis, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. (Nuccio DiNuzzo)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was back on stage at Orchestra Hall, barely a week after the orchestra’s intense three-week tour to 11 cities in Europe. As always, the musicians were in stellar form.

Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Schoenberg’s orchestration of Brahms’ “Piano Quartet No. 1.” (Nuccio DiNuzzo Photography)

WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss reviews recent performances from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera and Staatskapelle Berlin.

Conrad Tao makes his CSO subscription debut in a performance of Gershwin’s “Concerto in F Major” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor James Gaffigan. (Todd Rosenberg)

WTTW News theater critic Hedy Weiss recommends an evening spent with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, guest conductor James Gaffigan and the extraordinary pianist Conrad Tao.

Baritone Christian Gerhaher performs songs from Mahler’s “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” led by Jaap van Zweden with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. (Todd Rosenberg)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was in its usual top form this past week in a concert that was zestily led by Jaap van Zweden, the Amsterdam-born conductor who is in his farewell season as music director of the New York Philharmonic.

Music director emeritus for life Riccardo Muti led the CSO in a performance of Strauss’ “Aus Italien” on Sept. 28, 2023. (Todd Rosenberg)

Although Maestro Riccardo Muti will soon head to New York and embark on a seven-country, 14-concert tour of Europe with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, his concert at Orchestra Hall on Thursday evening was an ideal example of the thrilling bond between him and the CSO’s brilliant musicians.

Music director emeritus for life Riccardo Muti led the CSO's opening concert of the 2023/24 season on Sept. 21, 2023. (Todd Rosenberg)

Something truly magical (and magnificent) happens when Maestro Riccardo Muti arrives on the podium to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The latest proof was on display in two different concerts this past Thursday and Saturday evening.

Alisa Weilerstein, left in gold gown, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are conducted by Joshua Weilerstein on Aug. 17, 2023, at the Ravinia Festival. (Emily Waler / Ravinia Festival)

For the second half of its Ravinia Festival concert this past Thursday the Chicago Symphony Orchestra delivered a bravura performance of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s extraordinary “Symphony No. 5” and it couldn’t have been more timely in subtle way.

Heather Headley performs at the Ravinia Pavilion on July 16, 2023. (Patrick Gipson / Ravinia Festival)

Whether she is performing songs from a Broadway musical, a familiar hymn or a gospel classic, Heather Headley possesses a voice and personality that can easily mesmerize an audience. And so she did with a grand-scale performance at Ravinia Pavilion.

Music director Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program including music by Florence Price and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony at the free Concert for Chicago in Millennium Park. (Todd Rosenberg)

With an audience approaching about 8,500 people, Maestro Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the “Concert for Chicago” in Millennium Park. He ended his 13-year tenure as CSO music director but will continue to conduct some performances.

Riccardo Muti and guest chorus director Donald Palumbo onstage following performance of Beethoven’s “Missa solemnis.” (Todd Rosenberg)

Maestro Riccardo Muti chose Beethoven’s “Missa solemnis” as the work he wished to conduct to mark “the official end” of his glorious 13-year tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has been named music director emeritus for life and will continue to lead occasional CSO performances.