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For centuries Western composers have tried to achieve Asian ambience with their music but often fell short of capturing the essence of those cultures. In the 1920s and 30s--as travel to faraway places became easier and other musical traditions infused the Eurocentric consciousness--"orientalism" ceased to be mostly coloristic effects. One of those pioneer composers who melded Eastern and Western elements into a convincing whole was the Canadian Colin McPhee, whose rarely heard Symphony no. 2 is featured in Chicago Symphony Orchestra's weeklong mini festival titled "East Meets West." A resident of Bali in the 30s, McPhee was entranced by the vitality and sensuality of gamelan music. In his masterful second symphony (aka Pastorale) he uses conventional percussion instruments to approximate the gamelan sound in conjuring up images of the island he loved. Also on the CSO program--juxtaposed with the ersatz orientalism of the overture to Mozart's Abduction From the Seraglio, Ravel's "Empress of the Pagodas" from Mother Goose, and that cliched stretch of Eastern luxuriance, Sheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov--is an assortment of authentic gamelan court music performed by Boston Village Gamelan under the direction of Barry Drummond. An ensemble formed in 1979 and coached by Javanese masters, BVG is one of the best of its kind outside Indonesia. Friday, 1:30 PM (preceded by a BVG recital at 12:30 PM), and Saturday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Van Kirk Photos.

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