One of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's most popular guest conductors, the Latvian-born Mariss Jansons is a rarity among his peers: he's an orchestra builder. In the course of his 15-year tenure as head of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, he's transformed an obscure regional ensemble into an international phenomenon. These Norwegians burst onto the scene in the early 80s, when the success of their self-financed CD of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony led to a tour and a contract to record the entire Tchaikovsky cycle for the Chandos label. They gained even more exposure providing fanfares for last winter's Olympics in Lillehammer. Jansons has molded the Oslo gradually (with the help of government subsidies), instilling a strong camaraderie in its members and getting in return a high level of warm, relaxed playing, especially in the wind and brass sections. His probing interpretive skills--which landed him posts at the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic and an early-70s offer to be Herbert von Karajan's assistant--are appreciated wherever he conducts. On the Chicago stop of their current eight-city U.S. tour, Jansons and the Oslo Philharmonic offer a program that is unfortunately similar to a typical CSO crowd pleaser. Do we really need yet another go at Ravel's La valse or Strauss's Don Quixote? Arne Nordheim's Nachruf for strings is included as a sample of the contemporary Norwegian scene, and the Oslo's performance of Shostakovich's Symphony no. 9 is sure to be exciting. Truls Mork is the featured cellist in Don Quixote. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paul Huf.