The Orion Ensemble, Chicago's nationally recognized and critically acclaimed chamber music ensemble, celebrates Women's History Month by welcoming guest soprano Patrice Michaels for "A Voice from Heaven," the third concert series of its 20th Anniversary Season. Performances take place March 10 at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, March 13 at the PianoForte Salon at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago and March 17 at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.
Highly acclaimed concert and recording artist Patrice Michaels, a guest with Orion in its opening season, performs a selection of three arias from her CD Divas of Mozart's Time: one by W.A. Mozart, one by Vincenzo Righini and one by Vincente Martin y Soler. These infrequently heard works showcase Michaels' singing through special arrangements for her and Orion by Peter LaBella.
Michaels joins forces with Orion clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle for the Schubert favorite Der Hirt auf Dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock), full of virtuosity and lyricism for both voice and clarinet, as well as three short colorful Vocalises by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Orion violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, cellist Judy Stone and pianist Diana Schmück join Michaels to perform "Music," the last of Dmitri Shostakovich's Seven Romances of Verses by Alexander Blok, Op. 17, No. 7,written in 1967. Cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, requested a "vocalise" for the two of them. After writing that piece, Shostakovich continued with Blok's verses, adding a violin. Each of the seven pieces showcases a different combination of the four instruments, all with ominous overtones. Only the seventh, an introverted hymn to the art, uses all four instruments.
Shostakovich wrote his Piano Trio in E Minor, Op. 67 as part of his artistic reaction to World War II. The first movement uses a haunting theme, developed in the introduction by means of timbre and register. In the second movement, which is full of energy and vitality, Shostakovich juxtaposes unexpected harmonies and melodic fragments, creating a tinge of sarcasm that overlays the movement's "joie de vivre." The profound third movement, a passacaglia (where an eight-measure chord pattern is repeated six times in the piano), leads directly into the final movement, which incorporates material from preceding movements, along with music in the style of Jewish dances. The material builds alternating themes of hope and despair, with a persistent rhythm, into an almost mocking tragic climax before the tension is released dynamically.
Patrice Michaels receives raves for her "poise, musicianship and impressive fioratura" (Los Angeles Times), "a voice that is light, rich and flexible" (Opera News) and "pinpoint-accurate...bravura" (Boston Globe). Recent seasons have included engagements with the Shanghai, Czech National, St. Louis, Omaha, Atlanta, Phoenix, Milwaukee and Minnesota Orchestras; the Maryland Handel Festival, Dallas Bach Society and Charlotte, Kansas City and Virginia Symphonies; as well as New York's Concert Royal and Chicago's Music of the Baroque. Among her operatic credits is the Hal Prince production of Candide at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She has sung with the Cleveland Opera, Central City Opera, Tacoma Opera, The Banff Centre and Chicago Opera Theater.
Orion's 20th Anniversary Season
Orion's 2012-13 season concludes in May with "Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair," featuring special guest pianist Miguel de la Cerna contributing his second work commissioned for Orion on a program also including Márquez, Ponce and Brahms and welcoming back Stephen Boe on viola. Orion also will appear on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" May 6, 2013.