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Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra




Composer Frank Ferko has a talent for revitalizing and transforming centuries-old, little-trafficked genres, from a cappella sacred music to solo organ pieces. One of his more impressive projects of the the past decade is his research on 12th-century German abbess Hildegard von Bingen. He's composed the ten-movement Hildegard Organ Cycle, based on her hymns, as well as a collection of choral motets set to her writings. This work has deepened his understanding and love of early liturgical traditions--much as his fascination with Messiaen's wild, otherworldly harmonics has colored his approach to the organ. Three years ago these strands converged in his Stabat Mater for mixed chorus and solo soprano, probably his most important work to date: achingly poignant but not self-consciously pious or sentimental, it combines soaring tonalities with a mosaiclike structure, packing 25 musical miniatures into just under an hour. A new Ferko composition, Continuum: Time Contemplates Her Own Eternity, calls for an orchestra and chorus, as well as a soprano to sing the role of Time. The 20-minute piece, to be premiered this weekend by the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, is serene and ruminative, filled with devices that create a circular metaphor for the motion of time--the overall rondo structure, in which one episode regularly recurs in different forms; a canon played by the strings; harmonic palindromes in the winds, harp, and glockenspiel; an oboe opening and closing the work. The ESO counts former and present Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera musicians among its members; Patrice Michaels, who has a radiant, supple voice, dramatic but never merely florid, will be the soprano here. Also on the program are Carl Orff's chest-pounding, paganish Carmina Burana, also featuring Michaels, and Max Bruch's Violin Concerto no. 2, with soloist Brittany Cotto. Stephen Alltop conducts. Saturday, May 12, 8 PM, and Sunday, May 13, 3 PM, auditorium, York High School, 355 W. Saint Charles, Elmhurst; 630-941-0202.


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