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Osvaldo Golijov

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As Ravinia's first composer in residence, Osvaldo Golijov is getting the royal treatment. Over the next two weeks the festival will present three of his works--a trio of art songs written for soprano Dawn Upshaw, the string quartet Yiddishbbuk, and the monumental mass La pasion segun San Marcos ("The Passion According to Saint Mark")--at three separate concerts. Now 41 and based in Massachusetts, the Argentinean native is a vital member of a nascent American movement that's transforming Eurocentric conventions by drawing from indigenous Asian and Latin American sources. Golijov's idiom in progress reflects the varied places he's called home: he grew up Jewish in Catholic Argentina--a cauldron of Native American and African rhythms, of Piazzolla's tangos and Brazilian sambas--and then moved to Israel to study Jewish liturgical music and klezmer; in 1986 he emigrated to the U.S. to earn a doctorate in composition at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was mentored by George Crumb. I've only heard a few of Golijov's pieces, but they've all been vibrant, with insistent percussion that demands to be felt as much as heard. Yiddishbbuk, premiered in 1993, retools Bartok's pungent modernism, with klezmer inflections replacing the Hungarian folk elements. And the masterful Pasion (2000), though crowded with unmistakably South American colors--folk and dance music, street drumming, tribal chants--also borrows heavily from Jewish liturgical song. Yiddishbbuk will be given its local premiere by Mexico's Cuarteto Latinoamericano, and Upshaw will perform "Close Your Eyes," "Lua descolorida," and "How Slow the Wind" with the Borromeo String Quartet; both these concerts will also feature works not by Golijov. The most ambitious undertaking is certainly the mass, which will take up an entire concert itself: its 34 sections clock in at nearly 90 minutes, and it calls for 75 musicians and singers. Robert Spano will conduct an ensemble nearly identical to the group on the recent HŠnssler Classic CD of the piece, featuring Orquesta la Pasion, Schola Cantorum de Caracas, and vocal soloists Luciana Souza and Reynaldo Gonzalez Fernandez (Upshaw will be on hand as well). Tuesday, August 20, 8 PM, Martin Theatre (three songs), Tuesday, August 27, 6 PM, Bennett-Gordon Hall (Yiddishbbuk), and Tuesday, August 27, 8 PM, Pavilion (La pasion segun San Marcos), Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.

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