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.
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.
• Violinist and violist Stephen Boe, a highly sought-after chamber musician who has performed with the Chicago Ensemble and is on faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago, joins the Orion musicians for the Beethoven String Trio.
Orion's "Musical Travels" season concludes with "Czech and American Romance" in May and June, featuring violist Stephen Boe performing on the third Beethoven Opus 9 Trio and works by Amon, Gershwin and Dvorak.
In addition to its annual four-concert series in three Chicagoland areas, Orion appears on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" 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 Founded in 1992, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration "An Inside Look at Contemporary Music," features a roster of five superb musicians-Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Jennifer Marlas (viola-on sabbatical), Diana Schmück (piano) and Judy Stone (cello)-who have performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia as an ensemble and individually in solo, orchestral and other chamber music roles. The Chicago Tribune called Orion "one of Chicago's most vibrant, versatile and distinctive ensembles," and the Chicago Sun-Times said Orion is "what chamber music should be all about: Individual virtuosity melded into a group personality." The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. For a brief history, click here. Performance and ticket information
The Orion Ensemble's "Sounds of Russia" concert program takes place Sunday, March 9 at 7 p.m. at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Avenue in St. Charles; Wednesday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Sherwood, The Community Music School at Columbia College Chicago, 1312 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, March 16 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.