Orion Salutes Its Roots with November Concerts

Showcasing its three original ensemble members--clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu and pianist Diana Schmück--The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, presents "Serenade by Three: Orion Beginnings." Performances take place at First Baptist Church of GenevaNovember 6; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston November 13; and the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago November 16.

The program

Featuring music composed for a clarinetist by a clarinetist, Orion performs Edward Yadzinski's (b. 1940) Bartók Dances for clarinet and piano. Yadzinski speaks of the "cryptic detunings" and "tender legatos" in these wonderfully exotic works. Anyone who has enjoyed the originality and vitality of Bartók's music will find delight in knowing these pieces are based on Bartók's beloved Romanian Folk Dances, Sz 56 (1915).

Franz Liszt's Rigoletto Fantasy (1859) is a paraphrase of the quartet from Act 3 of Verdi's opera Rigoletto. In the quartet, each of the four characters has a different emotional content to his or her theme, which intertwines with the themes of the others. In this transcription, Liszt works his inimitable magic on the themes, enlivening them with grand pianistic virtuosity, which some think improves on the original.

Isaac Albeniz, a child prodigy, was an adept improviser and composed quickly. "Granada" fromSuite espagnole, Op. 47(1886) and "Córdoba" from Chants d'Espagne, Op. 232 (1892) are typical of his middle-period nationalistic music. Although he admits they are not grand works, he likes the "sunshine, color, and flavor of olives" they contain. His biographer notes that these works all use dance rhythms, exotic scales, guitar idioms and "canto jondo" (i.e., deep or profound song that deals with death or grief, like flamenco). In short, they transport the listener to Spain.

Aram Khachaturian's wrote his Trio for clarinet, violin and piano (1932) displays highly varying emotions and is based on Armenian and Uzbek folk melodies. The first movement, Andante con dolore, yearning and freely rhythmic, is followed by the passionate Allegro, featuring crashing storms and poetic interludes. The Trio concludes with an equally exotic finale featuring nine colorful variations.

Srul Irving Glick's The Klezmer's Wedding for clarinet, violin and piano (1996) entices the listener with the yearning strains of Klezmer-based elements and styles. A wonderful dialogue between violin and clarinet in the opening movement is complemented by rhythmic accentuations from the piano.

Academy Award-winning composer John Williams arranged three pieces, based on his score for the film Schindler's List (1993), for violin and piano in 1994. The theme from Schindler's List, known by millions, is dedicated to Itzhak Perlman. Anyone who has heard the music of this award-winning cinematic masterpiece will recognize the deeply heartfelt strains of Williams' original score.

Orion's 2016-17 season

Orion's 2016-17 season, Miniatures and Masterworks, continues with "Connections" in March, welcoming back guest violist Stephen Boe for a program of Kritz, Mahler and Rebecca Clarke, and "Wit and Passion" in May, also featuring Boe for works by Jean Francaix and Brahms. Also during the season, Orion hosts a fall benefit November 19 at 12 noon at Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne, Illinois and appears on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" October 3, 2016 and March 20, 2017 at 8 p.m.

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 four superb musicians--Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), 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 Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund, the Illinois Arts Council and generous donations from its patrons.For a brief history, click here.

Performance and ticket information

The Orion Ensemble's concert program "Serenade by Three: Orion Beginnings" takes placeSunday, November 6 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva;Sunday, November 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston; and Wednesday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago. 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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