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Symphony II

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The midwest chapter of American Women Composers concludes its tenth season with its first-ever orchestral program. The composers featured hail from various backgrounds, reflecting the changing status of women musicians over the past century. Amy Cheney Beach (1867-1944), who cut short her career as a concert pianist to marry a physician, composed prolifically in a number of genres despite (or maybe because of) little formal training and hosted salons to showcase her chamber music. Yet only posthumously is her music taken seriously. Now viewed as one of the American originals of the 19th century, the New Englander is represented on this program by her 1894 Gaelic Symphony. Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983), on the other hand, encountered little resistance in her pursuit of a brilliant career as performer, composer, and teacher. She was as embraced by most of her male colleagues and belonged to Les Six, whose members, including Poulenc, aimed for clarity in their dramatic lyrical styles. Tailleferre achieved a beguiling simplicity, as exemplified by her Overture, which will be performed this Sunday. The rest of this program consists of recent compositions chosen by an AWC committee. Their authors are all sought-after commission winners--one indication that women composers have finally arrived. Vigil for Cello and Orchestra, by 30-year-old Augusta Read Thomas, is written in a lyrical yet extroverted style that would have pleased Copland and Barber. In Coalescences DePaul University prof Charmian Tashjian builds on the process of weaving two distinctly disparate musical ideas into a complex whole. Duo Ye No. 2, by Chinese-born Chen Yi, is based on songs used by the Dung tribes of southwestern China during their rituals. Symphony II, which is Lyric Opera's pit orchestra in the off-season, has won praises and comparisons to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But surely the CSO would never have the guts to present such a venturesome program as this. Veteran cellist Barbara Hoffner is the soloist in Thomas's Vigil. Sunday, 7 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 708-866-6888.

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