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Short of making pledge-drive specials for PBS, classical musicians rarely cross over even a little to mainstream audiences. While the Hilliard Ensemble are hardly household names, they are much better known than most of their contemporaries, and they certainly stand apart for their dedication both to medieval, renaissance, and early baroque music (the genre known more formally as early music) and cutting-edge contemporary compositions (known as "new music"). Several collaborations with the now-watery Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek have certainly helped spread their name among non-classical cognoscenti, but ultimately it’s their stunning sound that’s kept them a force for more than three decades now.
The dynamic richness and tonal precision of the quartet is astonishing, bringing a simultaneous warmth and technical wizardry to just about everything they tackle, whether Bach or Arvo Part, the Estonian composer they’ve worked with regularly over the last couple of decades. On Friday, January 26, they make one of their infrequent local appearances (they were last here in 2002) at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago. This time out they’re in early music mode, performing a selection of sacred music by two important 15th-century composers: Guillaume Dufay and Josquin Desprez. Click here for more info.