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Chicago Symphony Orchestra

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Resurrecting a custom of its first music director, Theodore Thomas, the CSO is offering its first "audience choice" concert since 1902--music selected by the people, or rather the several hundred who called or e-mailed Symphony Center. Dvorak's Ninth Symphony, From the New World, emerged early on as a clear favorite, and for good reason. It has driving Slavic rhythms, Beethovenian intensity, one gorgeous theme after another, touching tenderness, and the composer's most famous melody. Written in 1893 during a visit to the U.S., it also has material inspired by Native American music and African-American spirituals, but it's still more Czech than American and reflects the surging nationalism of the 19th century. The works of two other romantic-nationalist composers, Smetana and Sibelius, also won the vote. Sibelius's darkly dramatic tone poem Finlandia, composed for a gala supporting free speech, became a symbol of Finland's struggle for independence. Smetana's "The Moldau," from his cycle My Country, has a stunning opening that begins with a flute playing a quick, swerving line. More flutes and winds join in, sounding like trickling water, and by the time the cellos take over there's a river. Boisterous horns evoke hunting in a forest, a lighthearted polka a peasant wedding. The gorgeous melody that runs through the work was later arranged by an Israeli immigrant from Moldavia for the Israeli national anthem. The program also includes Brahms's Variations on a Theme by Haydn, a joyful early work that's packed with his trademark warmth, cross rhythms, and sumptuous orchestration. Paavo Jarvi conducts. The concert repeats Thursday through Saturday; see separate Treatment item for details on Thursday's performance. Tue 4/11, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $15-$104.

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