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Three compositions were written for the joint centennials of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the University of Chicago, and Shulamit Ran's belated entry, Legends, promises to be a middle-of-the-roader. As a composer, the Israeli-born Ran is not as resolutely radical as her onetime mentor and U. of C. colleague Ralph Shapey, whose contribution to the anniversary was the sprawling and fascinating Concerto fantastique. She'd probably thumb her nose at Easley Blackwood's Symphony no. 5, an earnest, yet misguided attempt at rescussitating classicism. Ran is at her best when she brushes aside the rigid academic formalism she's prone to and lets loose her romantic impulses in sensuous, spinning quasi-oriental melodies. Legends, according to her description, contains "an emphatic, almost incantational melody" among its thematic materials. The two-movement, 20-minute work, which purports to conjure up the mystery and wonder associated with the word "legend," has a cyclical structure, yet Ran says it also bows to "the inevitable forward flow of time." Meticulous craftsmanship and middlebrow taste--two qualities appreciated by the Pulitzer selection committee that awarded Ran its music prize in 1991--can be expected. Daniel Barenboim will conduct the CSO; the program also includes Ravel's lovely, stately Le tombeau de Couerin and Brahms's Second Symphony. Ran, a charming explicator of new music, will give a talk before the Thursday concert. Thursday through next Saturday, October 9, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666.

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