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Orion Ensemble Closes Season at Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 6/1

Orion Ensemble Closes Season at Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 6/1

Concluding its season of "Musical Travels," The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, showcases music from three countries. Performances take place at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles May 25, the PianoForte Studios in Chicago May 28 and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston June 1.

The program Two classical works, by composers whose dates are similar, take listeners to Germany at the turn of the 19th century. Orion's string players-Florentina Ramniceanu on violin and Judy Stone on cello-welcome guest violinist and violist Stephen Boe on viola to complete Beethoven's virtuosic Opus 9 String Trio cycle with the Trio in C Minor, Opus 9, No. 3, having performed the first two Trios on earlier programs this season. These energetic and virtuosic Trios, written in 1797, are delightful examples of young Beethoven's skills in working motivically and stretching the forms of the day to accommodate his unique style and voice.

Orion clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle joins the string players for the Clarinet Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 106, No. 2 by another German composer, Johann Andreas Amon (1763-1825). Amon was influenced by Mozart's Clarinet Quintet as well as by clarinet works he heard while studying and traveling in France and Austria. His lyrical quartet exploits the melodic and virtuosic possibilities of the clarinet, as well as its various relationships with the strings.

In a quick excursion to the early 20th century U.S., Kathryne Pirtle and pianist Diana Schmück perform Gershwin's Three Preludes. Originally written for piano alone, the effective arrangement by James Cohn for clarinet and piano keeps the jazzy energy of the original outer movements and the soulfulness of the middle prelude while adding the vast color palette of the clarinet.

Orion closes the concert with the Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 87 by Dvorak, considered one of the greatest Czech composers. In his treatise "Our Debt to Antonin Dvorak," Czech conductor Vaclav Talach asserted that Dvorak could listen to nature and turn the reality of the Czech countryside and rural life into the spiritual qualities of music. This work, for strings and piano, is full of beautiful themes, rich and varied textures and the enchanting influence of folk music of his beloved homeland.

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