Orion Ensemble to Open Season with STEPPING OUT, Begin. 9/28

Orion Ensemble to Open Season with STEPPING OUT, Begin. 9/28

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, opens its 22nd season with "Stepping Out," a program showcasing Chicago composer Jim Gailloreto and a combination of Romantic-era chamber music favorites and classical-jazz fusion pieces. Performances take place at First Baptist Church of Geneva September 28; Sherwood, The Community Music School of Columbia College Chicago October 1; and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston October 5.

Three guest musicians join Orion for this program: bassist Robert Kassinger, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and an avid chamber and jazz musician; pianist Sebastian Huydts, director of keyboard studies at the Music Center of Columbia College Chicago, concert pianist and chamber musician; and violinist/violist Stephen Boe, a sought-after chamber musician who teaches at the Music Institute of Chicago.

Known for his exciting and unique way of blending jazz and classical music so that structure and spontaneity coexist and rhythmic creativity is paramount, Gailloreto has been inspired by French masters Ravel and Debussy, as well as jazz greats Miles Davis and John Coltrane. His music, as well as his saxophone, appears on multiple recordings and live with notable Chicago musicians including Patricia Barber, Chicago Chamber Musicians, Chicago Jazz Ensemble, Wiliam Ferris Chorale and Fulcrum Point. He also founded the Jazzformation Quartet and the Jazz String Quartet. On this program, Orion plays Gailloreto's "As of Yet" for Clarinet, Violin and Cello (2014), as well as his arrangement of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" for the same instrumentation plus viola, played by Stephen Boe.

Another American composer who combined classical and jazz elements to create his own unique style was Morton Gould. Orion clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle and guest bassist Robert Kassinger perform Gould's "Benny's Gig: Eight Duos for Clarinet and Bass" (1962). Alternating lyrical and more upbeat moods, the duos feature contrapuntal conversation, often syncopated, between the instruments. Seven of the duos celebrated Benny Goodman's Russian tour in 1962; Gould added the eighth 16 years later to celebrate the clarinetist's 70th birthday.

Selected Slavonic Dances from Antonin Dvorak's second set of such dances (Op. 72), now better known in their orchestral version, were originally written for four-hand piano. Orion performs the four-hand version, with pianist/composer Sebastian Huydts joining Orion pianist Diana Schmück. As is typical of Dvorak's writing, nationalistic characteristics clearly resound in these dances, as do poignant lyricism and heart-swelling grandeur.

Boe and Kassinger join Orion artists for the concert finale--one of the most popular chamber music works among audiences and performers alike--the "Trout" Quintet in A Major, Op. 114, D. 667 by Franz Schubert. Nicknamed for the composer's song "Die Forelle," which provides the theme for the fourth movement variations, the work has five movements: the first movement is dramatic, the second is more lyrical, the third is playful, the fourth is the renowned variation set that features each instrument in turn, and the finale is dance-like. Although he wrote the quintet at age 20, Schubert had already composed more than 30 other chamber works, and the "Trout" shows the polish of a mature composer.