Chicago Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Chicago Ensemble

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The Chicago Ensemble, now well into its third decade, has undergone a number of personnel shake-ups over the years, but founder and pianist Gerald Rizzer is a survivor. The various incarnations of his group have lacked neither skill nor interpretative acumen, but for some reason the group hasn't been able to excite its audiences, to involve them in the music making the way top-notch performers like the Juilliard Quartet or cellist Yo-Yo Ma habitually do. Loosening up would probably be a good first step, and the program for the ensemble's second round of concerts this season offers two good opportunities: Manhattan Captive, a short piece filled with jazz and blues riffs for piano quartet by the England-based American Kevin Malone, and Bostonian Jan Swofford's They Who Hunger, a winner of the ensemble's recent "Discover America" contest and a lushly scored commiseration with the homeless that juxtaposes elements of minimalism with Coplandesque modalism throughout its 20 minutes. True to its eclectic spirit, the group has also scheduled a Classical piece (in this case Mozart's great G Minor Piano Quartet) alongside a Romantic entry (Faure's seldom-performed Second Piano Quartet). Rizzer's accomplices are violinist David Wolf, violist Adam Smyla, and cellist Julie Zumsteg. Saturday, 8 PM, International House, University of Chicago, 1414 E. 59th; 907-2190.

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