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Orion Ensemble to Perform SOUNDS OF RUSSIA, 3/9-16

Orion Ensemble to Perform SOUNDS OF RUSSIA, 3/9-16

Continuing its season of "Musical Travels," The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, showcases "Sounds of Russia," featuring works by Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff and welcoming three special guests. Performances include Orion's debut at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles March 9, as well as performances at Sherwood, The Community Music School of Columbia College Chicago March 12 and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston March 16.

"Sounds of Russia" includes Suite from L'Histoire du Soldat for Clarinet, Violin and Piano by Igor Stravinsky, considered by many to be among the most influential composers of the 20th century. The Suite is part of a larger work for improvised theatre created by Stravinsky and his author friend Ramuz in 1918. The tale is an adaptation of the Faust story, about a soldier who trades his violin for great wealth, only to realize the folly of his decision later. Stravinsky was fascinated by rhythms throughout the many stages of his long and varied compositional life. L'Histoire, full of rhythmic energy and stylistic diversity and influenced in part by American jazz, illustrates this fascination. Rachmaninoff's compositional approach was influenced early by Tchaikovsky, as well as Rimsky-Korsokov and other Russian composers. Pianistically he was influenced by Anton Rubenstein and favored the playing of his friend, pianist Vladimir Horowitz. The four movements of the Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos, Op. 17, which he wrote at age 28 and performed with Horowitz, are exemplary of his virtuosic writing, his rhythmic layering and flexibility, his ability to spin long musical lines while devising varied and fascinating textures and his comfort with creating musical structure and shape. This concert program also features Beethoven's Trio in D Major for Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 9, No. 2, the second of three Beethoven String Trios Orion is performing during its 2013-14 season. By 1797, the year he wrote the String Trios, Beethoven was composing prolifically and his style was jelling-in particular, his penchant for working more at the motivic level than with bulky themes. This Trio amply demonstrates the progress Beethoven was making in both the formal and stylistic arenas.

Guest performers
Joining Orion for these performances is a special guest on each piece:

• A student theatre major from the Chicago High School for the Arts serves as narrator accompanying the musicians for the Stravinsky Suite.

• Pianist, composer and Columbia College Chicago Director of Keyboard Studies Sebastian Huydts, who has written works for Orion and provided commentary at the ensemble's concerts in October and November 2013, joins Orion pianist Diana Schmück for the Rachmaninoff Suite.

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