Orion Ensemble | Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University | Classical | Chicago Reader

Orion Ensemble Recommended Soundboard Critics' Picks

When: Wed., March 18, 7:30 p.m. 2009

For the third of the four concerts in its 2008-’09 series, Chicago’s outstanding Orion Ensemble has put together a terrific program that juxtaposes contemporary compositions with the Romantic repertoire. Max Bruch’s Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano (op. 83) is soulful and rather dark, with eastern European melodic influences; the Orion will play five of them, taking advantage of Bruch’s allowance for instrumental substitutions to swap in violin and cello. Next is High Wire Act (2005) by Laura Elise Schwendinger, a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow whose music has been performed by artists as diverse as Dawn Upshaw, Matt Haimovitz, and the Arditti Quartet. Inspired by the tiny circus of mechanized wire-frame figures built by sculptor Alexander Calder, it consists of five short movements originally scored for strings, flute, and piano; the version premiering tonight was tailored specifically to the Orion Ensemble. The music’s lyrical passages are often interrupted by or overlap with bursts of busy textural activity, clouds of violin harmonics, and programmatic gestures suggesting the motions of acrobats (or, in “Trapped Bird,” the animal’s panicked cries). The evening concludes with Mendelssohn’s brooding, passionate Trio in D Minor for Violin, Cello, and Piano (op. 49), a staple of both the Romantic and trio repertoires. The Orion will repeat this program March 22 at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva and March 29 at Nichols Hall of the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston. —Barbara Yaross

Price: $25, $22 seniors, $10 students, free for children 12 and under

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