PRAGUE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
One of Europe's preeminent midsize ensembles, the conductorless Prague Chamber Orchestra has been around for more than four decades, offering itself as a model of versatility and independence. Its players (currently 36 in all) are drawn from top conservatories in eastern Europe, and the sound they produce is noted for its balance, precision, and clear articulation--a remarkable feat of self-discipline given that there's no supervision from the podium. The orchestra boasts a wide-ranging repertoire, but it excels especially with Mozart. For the ensemble's latest concert in the Chicago area, Mozart's sparklingly melodic Haffner Symphony (no. 35) is paired with the Piano Concerto no. 17 in G. Making his Chicago debut in the concerto is Simone Pedroni, the 26-year-old Italian pianist who won the gold medal in the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition. Pedroni, who prepped with Lazar Berman, has plenty of technique (his winning performance was the devilishly difficult--and showy--Rachmaninoff Second), but it'll remain to be seen whether he can navigate Mozart's alternating currents of mirth and sorrow with finesse and sensitivity. Also on the program are works by two Mozarteans--Rossini's overture to Tancredi and Britten's Simple Symphony. Britten's piece--a clever addition to the British tradition of lyrically playful works for string orchestra--is getting a rare revival. Friday, 8 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mario Mulas--Milano.