International Contemporary Ensemble performs John Zorn | Museum of Contemporary Art | Classical | Chicago Reader

International Contemporary Ensemble performs John Zorn All Ages Agenda Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Sat., Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m. 2013

John Zorn, who turned 60 on September 2, has been traveling the globe all year for concerts celebrating that milestone, and this weekend he rolls into Chicago, where the International Contemporary Ensemble will perform his music under the direction of violinist David Fulmer. Zorn remains as maniacally prolific as ever, and in case you haven’t kept up, over the past couple decades he’s downplayed improvised music and jazz in favor of composed work. He’s been composing for more than 40 years, but 1988’s “Cat o’ Nine Tails,” written for the Kronos Quartet, was one of his first “classical” pieces to be commissioned and recorded; he was still using the quick-cut method he made famous with his group Naked City, so in the company of work by Henry Cowell and Sofia Gubaidulina it seemed like a novelty. But with the passage of time, Zorn has proved himself one of new music’s most thoughtful, diverse, and satisfying composers. His newest collection, Lemma (Tzadik), contains three works for one or two violins, marked by bracing tension and satisfying compositional logic, all of which demand breathless virtuosity and delicate repose (and two of which feature Fulmer). Lately Zorn has been embraced by a slew of young new-music groups, including Chicago’s Fifth House Ensemble—their recording of his 2012 piece “The Temptations of St. Anthony” will appear on next month’s On the Torment of Saints, the Casting of Spells and the Evocation of Spirits (Tzadik). He’s developed a particularly close relationship with ICE, and the six works on tonight’s program include some he’s written recently for the group (“The Tempest”) or its members (“The Steppenwolf,” for clarinetist Joshua Rubin). Four date from the past two years, while “Canon to Stravinsky” was composed in 1972. The only one I’ve heard is 2004’s “Walpurgisnacht,” a string trio inspired by Webern’s Streichtrio but very much its own piece, with brittle pizzicato, violent rhythms, and dizzying bowing as well as an exquisitely delicate final movement. —Peter Margasak

Price: $28, $22 for MCA members, $10 for students

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