To celebrate its 20th season, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new music series MusicNOW will open with a retrospective program of works by former CSO composers-in-residence, as well as appearances by pianist-composer Vijay Iyer and conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen. In addition, the series will feature the world premiere of an evening-length work, Savior, by Illinois native Amy Beth Kirsten, based on the life of Joan of Arc.

Savior is a work of composed theater scored for three women’s voices and four instruments. It integrates light, movement, text and sound design to reflect upon the perceptual richness and complexity of Joan of Arc’s mystical and divinely inspired life as well as her politically motivated death. The production features CSO musicians and guest artists from HOWL, an East Coast-based performing arts ensemble that fuses theatrical, operatic and chamber music forms and was co-founded by Kirsten in 2012.

As usual, the series will be curated by the CSO’s Mead composers-in-residence Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek. “MusicNOW is turning 20 next season, and we are thrilled to present four concerts of incredible music featuring some of today’s most forward-looking artists,” said Adams and Ogonek in a joint statement. “We’re also excited to continue our commissioning project, working directly with composers to realize their artistic visions. It’s an absolute joy bringing new music to Chicago audiences, and we look forward to another season.”

The dates for the Monday-night series are Oct. 2, Nov. 13, April 2 and May 21, with the first three concerts at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, and the season finale at Symphony Center. All concerts start at 7 p.m. The Harris Theater programs include during post-concert receptions with complimentary food and beverages.

Details of next season’s concerts:

Oct. 2, composer-in-residence retrospective: Cliff Colnot, principal conductor of MusicNOW, will lead CSO musicians in works by the orchestra’s past composers-in-residence. The program consists of Anna Clyne’s Fits + Starts, Osvaldo Golijov’s Mariel for Cello and Marimba, Shulamit Ran’s Blessing for the Road, Mason Bates’ The Life of Birds, John Corigliano’s The Red Violin Caprices, Augusta Read Thomas’ Carillon Sky and Marc-Anthony Turnage’s No Let Up. Among the performers will be CSO musicians Baird Dodge, principal second violin; Stephanie Jeong, associate concertmaster; Brant Taylor, cello, and Adams and Ogonek.

Nov. 13, works by Vijay Iyer: As the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship, Vijay Iyer has established himself as an extraordinary pianist and composer across several genres including jazz, chamber and orchestral music. Appearing with him will be trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, in a program to include Iyer’s Time, Place, Action and Iyer & Smith’s A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke.

April 2, world premiere of Savior: Scored for three women’s voices and four instruments, Amy Beth Kirsten’s Savior integrates light, movement, text and sound design to reflect on the complexity of the mystical and divinely inspired life and death of medieval martyr-saint-warrior Joan of Arc. The production, a MusicNOW commission that fuses theatrical, operatic and chamber music forms, features sopranos Molly Netter and Eliza Bagg, and mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn, guest artists from HOWL, an East Coast-based performing arts ensemble co-founded by Kirsten in 2012. Kirsten also directs the production, with sound design by Christopher Kriz and lighting design by Mary Ellen Stebbins. Savior was commissioned by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation for MusicNOW.

May 21, season finale: To conclude series’ 20th year, guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead CSO musicians in a special Symphony Center concert featuring the world premieres of  MusicNOW commissions by Adams and Ogonek. Karen Gomyo will be guest soloist in Adams’ world-premiere violin concerto. A frequent visitor to Symphony Center, Salonen is principal conductor and artistic adviser for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, conductor laureate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic (where he was music director from 1992 until 2009) and the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic.

Major support for MusicNOW is provided by the Irving Harris Foundation, the Sally Mead Harris Foundation, the Julian Family Foundation, Cindy Sargent and the Zell Family Foundation. Special thanks to Helen Meyer and Meyer Sound for graciously donating the series’  sound equipment support.

MusicNOW series subscriptions are $80, with student rate of $36 with valid ID. Single tickets ($28, general admission; $15, students) go on sale Aug. 11. Tickets may be purchased by phone at (800) 223-7114 or (312) 294‑3000; online at, or at the Symphony Center box office, 220 S. Michigan.

TOP: Elizabeth Ogonek and Samuel Adams, the CSO’s Mead Composers-in-Residence, curate the MusicNOW series. | Todd Rosenberg Photography