Henryk Gorecki has been classical music's flavor of the decade since his haunting minimalist ode, Symphony no. 3, became a surprise hit in the late 80s. Once an avant-gardist and a political activist in his native Poland, nowadays he's an international phenomenon known for his ethereal and folksy minimalism. At its best his choral and vocal music, such as Miserere (premiered here last year by the Lira Singers), sounds mysterious and transcendent, suggesting a studied reinvention of medieval modes, but his rigid and simple instrumental and orchestral works often border on the dull. His Concerto-Cantata for Solo Flute and Orchestra, being given its first local performances this week by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is reportedly a winner. It opens with a melancholic alto flute solo; a sequence of motifs from a flauto grande follows, colored by French horns. The whirlwind central movement features an elaborate pas de deux between flute and clarinet. Then the palindromic work retraces its steps back to the tentative, plaintive alto flute. Gorecki wrote this showcase of colors and rhythms in 1992 for Carol Wincenc, a celebrated soloist and Juilliard instructor who'll perform with the CSO at these subscription concerts. The guest conductor is Estonian Eri Klas, who oversaw the work's world premiere in Amsterdam. Also on the program is Sibelius's sublimely primordial and icy Symphony no. 2, compared to which Prokofiev's brisk Classical Symphony, also included, lives up to its name. Friday, 1:30 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666. A preconcert discussion with Gorecki and Wincenc begins in Grainger Ballroom one hour before each performance.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photos/Peter Schaff; Gerry Hurkmans.