The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's greatest strength has long been its flexibility--its ability to adapt to the demands of different composers, conductors, and soloists. Three years ago it decided to replace its music director with a handful of rotating "artistic partners"--who now include violinist Joshua Bell, pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and conductor Roberto Abbado (nephew of Claudio)--and give orchestra members more say over everything from personnel to repertoire. Just back from a European tour, the group continues its second year of a three-year residency at the University of Chicago with a conductorless program. It opens with Einojuhani Rautavaara's string arrangement of his Fiddlers, an engagingly pungent reshaping of old fiddle dances into five fantasies, originally written for piano in 1952. Next is Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola, and orchestra, in which some of the best dialogue is between the solo instruments (played here by the principals), peaking in the mournful andante's cadenza. The concert closes with Rudolf Barshai's chamber-orchestra arrangement of Shostakovich's Third String Quartet. The original reflects the uncertainty following World War II, but the vivid orchestration loses some of the dark ambiguity and uneasiness.
a 3 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th, 773-702-8068, $35, $11 for students.