Lark Quartet and Friends | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Lark Quartet and Friends

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This miniretrospective of Shulamit Ran's chamber work by the Lark Quartet and friends is evidence of her growing stature. At 45 she's still young for a composer, and as a Pulitzer winner she enjoys unprecedented institutional support in this city. She's composer-in-residence at both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera and holds an endowed professorship at the University of Chicago. She also wields clout as an arbiter of new music. But where is she as a composer? Some of her most recent compositions have been mild disappointments, and only a handful of works in her entire oeuvre come close to matching the emotional intensity and unself-conscious craftsmanship of O Chimneys, the song cycle she wrote more than two decades ago. In the 70s and early 80s Ran experimented with a largely atonal style built on sound clusters, echoing the abstract expressionism of her former mentor Ralph Shapey. The oldest piece on the program, For the Actor. Monologue for Clarinet (1978)--a compendium of techniques that passes for somber monodrama--is an example of this style. By the late 80s Ran returned to her Israeli roots, infusing her music with a tangy Middle Eastern sensuality as in the joyous East Wind for flute and the Concerto da Camera II (1987). Her overreliance on formalistic tricks is illustrated in the clever but flawed 1989 String Quartet no. 2 (Vistas); the following year she embraced Middle Eastern modes with abandon in Mirage. In their tribute to Ran, the youthful Lark will be joined by clarinetist Charles Neidich, flutist Mary Stolper, and pianist Brian Connelly. For comparison, the program also includes Beethoven's Quartet in F, op. 135, and Debussy's Syrinx, which depicts Pan's final song. Friday, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steve J. Sherman.

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