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Ever since its inception a decade ago, the female vocal quartet Anonymous 4 has excelled at the art of breathing life into medieval chant and polyphony. Its CDs on Harmonia Mundi USA and its excursion into movie music--Voices of Light, Richard Einhorn's oratorio inspired by the silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc--have all been best-sellers. One key to their popular success--besides their pure, breathtaking voices and meticulous technique--is the care with which they prepare their historically informed, theme-oriented programs. This Mandel Hall appearance is a timely holiday example. Titled "A Star in the East," the program surveys yuletide plainchant and polyphony from medieval Hungary. Rarely performed, these pieces are drawn from sources that survived destruction by the Turkish conquerors. Anonymous 4's selections (in Latin and Hungarian) are meant to show how native ornamental touches were added to west European models, resulting in the more piquant and giddy sound we associate with Hungarian folk songs. Interspersed throughout the program are readings from The Peasant Bible, a compilation of biblical stories from the Hungarian oral tradition told by women born around the turn of this century. Friday, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Susan Johann.

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