Orion Ensemble to Kick Off 21st Season with CELEBRATING BRAHMS in September

Johannes Brahms is the focus of the 2013-14 season opener of The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. These performances include debuts at two venues-September 8 at First Baptist Church of Geneva and September 11 at PianoForte Studios in Chicago-as well as a return to Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston September 22.

Joining Orion is guest horn Gregory Flint, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and member of the award-winning Asbury Brass Quintet, Tower Brass of Chicago and Fulcrum Point Brass Quintet.

"Celebrating Brahms" features two contrasting trios by the early 19th century German composer, written more than 25 years apart. Both reveal the composer's emotional depth and intensity, as well as his superb musical craftsmanship and understanding of the varied instruments he used in combination.

In the Trio in E-Flat Major for Horn, Violin and Piano, Op. 40, Brahms honors his mother, who passed away shortly before he composed this work, as well as his father, with the use of his instrument, the horn. Other than the hauntingly beautiful Elegie, the movements have a youthful energy; the high sounds of the violin and horn, the characteristic folk and hunting-call motives associated with the horn and the rhythmic play between the instruments contribute to that aesthetic.

Brahms wrote the Trio in A Minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Op. 114, after he had retired from composing. However, he was so moved after hearing clarinetist Richard Mühfeld he began to work on this trio. He juxtaposes themes in ways that sound inevitable, as are the imaginative combinations of sounds from the three instruments.

Also on the program is the edgy Café Music for Violin, Cello and Piano (1986) by Paul Schoenfield. The music of this Jewish American composer and pianist clearly shows his keen interest in jazz and the folk music of many cultures, particularly his Jewish roots. About Café Music he said, "My intention was to write a kind of high-class dinner music-music that could be played at a restaurant, but might also (just barely) find its way into a concert hall. Early 20th century American, Viennese, light classical, Gypsy and Broadway styles are all represented," as well as a Hasidic melody.

Orion's "Musical Travels" season continues with a series of Beethoven Trios, one on each of the three remaining programs, which include "Danube Destinations" in October and November, featuring guest violist Stephen Boe and other works by Hindemith and Mozart; "Sounds of Russia" in March, featuring guest pianist Sebastian Huydts, violist Stephen Boe, a guest narrator from the Chicago High School for the Arts and other works by Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff; and "Czech and American Romance" in May and June, featuring violist Stephen Boe and other works by Amon, Gershwin and Dvorak.

In addition to its annual four-concert series in three areas, Orion appears on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" in November 2013 (date TBD) and on March 24, 2014. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.
The Orion Ensemble's "Celebrating Brahms" concert program takes place Sunday, September 8 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Wednesday, September 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, September 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit orionensemble.org.

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