International Contemporary Ensemble | Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center | Classical | Chicago Reader

International Contemporary Ensemble All Ages Free Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., Jan. 6, 3 p.m. 2013

This top-flight new-music group has earned its sterling reputation by performing a wide range of progressive, often experimental compositions from the past century, with a pointed emphasis on new work. International Contemporary Ensemble regularly curates programs that examine the connections between pieces of music written generations apart, whether choosing a piece that’s a deliberate homage or commentary on an earlier work (like John Adams’s 2007 Son of a Chamber Symphony and Schoenberg’s 1906 Chamber Symphony No. 1) or alternating adaptations of Bach’s two-part inventions with works by Kaija Saariaho and Giacinto Scelsi to explore the possibilities of the duo. Sunday’s exciting program falls into the latter category, loosely speaking: Franz Schubert’s delightful Octet (1824), a jaunty six-movement piece that was his only composition for eight musicians, is bookended by two George Lewis works for eight players. Shadowgraph 5 (1977) is a dazzling early work, first recorded with AACM colleagues such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, and Douglas Ewart, that signaled Lewis’s growing investment in composed music—a through-line of terse melody connects its stark tapestry of gestures that ebb and flow. Artificial Life 2007, by contrast, is built for improvisation, using only simple descriptive words and phrases to direct the players and organize the sound (and sometimes instruct them to be silent to consider the performance in real time). Today’s performance features clarinetist Joshua Rubin, bassoonist Rebekah Heller, horn player Daniel Kuhlman, violinists David Bowlin and Erik Carlson, violist Maiya Papach, cellist Katinka Kleijn, and bassist Randall Zigler. —Peter Margasak

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