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Newberry Consort

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For its first concert of the season the Newberry Consort has put together an unusual program combining fascinating scholarship and outstanding musicianship. In the 17th century the emperor of China allowed Jesuit missionaries into the Forbidden City, where they gave concerts on harpsichords and other Western instruments, taught the emperor and a group of eunuchs to play them, and composed music. The missionaries and eunuchs' orchestra regularly performed programs such as this one, titled "Crouching Dragon, Hidden Viol: Music for a Chinese Banquet," which includes both Western and Chinese works. Among them are the Violin Sonata in D Minor by Teodorico Pedrini, a typically Baroque five-movement composition with quivering melodic flourishes that give it a Chinese flavor, and two recited poems from a work by Matteo Ricci, Eight Melodies for a Western Stringed Instrument, whose melodies have long been lost. Some of Ricci's surviving works are weird attempts to imitate Chinese sounds using the pentatonic scale, Chinese instruments, and a harpsichord, with texts in both Chinese and Latin. Also on the program are several works by more familiar Baroque composers, including a vocal piece by Giacomo Carissimi and two short keyboard suites by Jean-Philippe Rameau. The consort members will be joined by Betti Xiang on erhu, a two-stringed violin with a long neck, and Wei Yang on pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute; both artists have toured with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. For the finale all the musicians will improvise on variations by Corelli, Marais, and Vivaldi on the ancient melody "La Folia." See also Saturday and Sunday. Fri 9/30, 8 PM, Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, 312-255-3700, $14-$38.

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