Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Quartet for the End of Time

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Olivier Messiaen's long-neglected, densely mystical, intensely difficult Quartet for the End of Time has enjoyed several performances in the Chicago area in the last two or three years after being ignored for the previous half-century. It may be a musical fad, but that's all right--this is a work that rewards repeated listening. Written in 1941, while Messiaen was a prisoner in a German POW camp, the work features the instruments the composer found available to him there: violin, cello, clarinet, and piano. While it has its cacophonous moments, the hour-long, eight-movement work builds to a climax that compensates the attentive listener with glimpses of a divine vision, like patches of blindingly blue sky behind a cover of caliginous clouds. The presenting group Concerts Under the Dome will offer the most high-octane local interpretation yet, with a group of headliners that includes CSO clarinetist John Bruce Yeh, prizewinning Canadian violinist Martin Beaver, cellist Marc Johnson of the Vermeer Quartet, and noted pianist Andrea Swan. WNIB announcer Carl Grapentine will lead a preconcert discussion at 7:30 in this acoustically felicitous setting. Friday, 8 PM, Ascension Church, 815 S. East Ave., Oak Park; 708-383-6456.

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