Orion Ensemble Announces 20th Anniversary Season


Celebrating 20 years of chamber music gems, The Orion Ensemble, Chicago's nationally recognized and critically acclaimed chamber music ensemble, presents a season of concerts that traces its history, welcomes respected guest musicians and concludes with a world premiere commission by Chicago jazz musician Miguel de la Cerna.

Orion will perform each of its four concert programs at venues spanning the Chicagoland area: Ganz Memorial Hall at Roosevelt University and the PianoForte Salon (Chicago); the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall (Evanston); and Fox Valley Presbyterian Church (Geneva).

The season opens with "Orion Beginnings," featuring a trio and a quartet Orion performed during its early seasons, along with a quintet commissioned for the Ensemble's 10th anniversary: Bela Bartók's Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1938); Sebastian Huydts' Quintet for Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, a 2002 Orion commission; and Robert Schumann's Quartet in E-flat Major for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 47. Stephen Boe joins Orion as violist for this program. Performances take place October 10 (Ganz Hall/Chicago), 14 (Geneva) and 21 (Evanston).

Guest violist Roger Chase and Boe, this time on violin, perform with Orion on its second concert program, "A Night at the Opera." The program includes Carl Maria von Weber's Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet, Op. 34; Franz Liszt's "Am Stillen Herd," S. 448, for solo piano, from Wagner's Die Meistersinger; and Giuseppi Verdi's String Quartet in E Minor (1873). Performances are November 25 (Geneva), December 2 (Evanston) and December 5 (PianoForte Salon/Chicago).

For Women's History Month, the women of Orion welcome guest soprano Patrice Michaels for "A Voice from Heaven," performing Franz Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen for Soprano, Clarinet and Piano, D. 965; Ralph Vaughan Williams' Three Vocalises for Soprano and Clarinet (1958); three arias-by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Vincenzo Righini and Vincente Martin y Soler-from Michaels' Cedille CD Divas of Mozart's Day, arranged for Orion by Pete La Bella; and two works by Dmitri Shostakovich: "Music" from Seven Romances on Verses by Alexander Blok for Voice, Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 127, No. 7 (1967), and Trio in E Minor for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 67, No. 2. Performances are March 10 (Geneva), 13 (PianoForte Salon/Chicago) and 17 (Evanston).

After his triumphant first work for Orion during the 2011–12 season, Miguel de la Cerna returns to contribute an as-yet untitled 20th anniversary commission to "Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair." Also on the program, which welcomes back violist Stephen Boe, are Arturo Márquez's Zarabandeo for Clarinet and Piano; Manuel Ponce's Piano Trio (Romantico); and Johannes Brahms' Quartet in G Minor for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 25. Performances are May 5 (Geneva), May 8 (Ganz Hall/Chicago) and May 12 (Evanston).

Also during the season, Orion will appear on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" November 26 and May 6 and in the Chicago Cultural Center's Lunchbreak Series "Classical Mondays" October 15 and November 19. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.

Founded in 1992, the Orion Ensemble boasts a roster of five superb musicians-Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano), Judy Stone (cello) and Jennifer Marlas (viola)-who have performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony, Moscow Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chicago's Music of the Baroque orchestra, and at music festivals including Ravinia, Aspen, Mostly Mozart, Hollywood Bowl, Taos Chamber Music, Salzburg and Banff. The Chicago Tribune called Orion "one of Chicago's most vibrant, versatile and distinctive ensembles," and the Chicago Sun-Timessaid Orion is "what chamber music should be all about: Individual virtuosity melded into a group personality." The Orion Ensemble received a Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration, "An Inside Look at Contemporary Music." The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council. For a brief history, click here.

            The Orion Ensemble performs each concert program during the 2012–13 season at four Chicago-area venues: Roosevelt University's Ganz Memorial Hall, 430 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, October 10 and May 8 at 7:30 p.m.; the PianoForte Salon at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, December 5 and March 13 at 7:30 p.m.; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston on Sundays, October 21 (7:30 p.m.), December 2 (3 p.m.), March 17 (3 p.m.) and May 12 (7:30 p.m.); and Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, 227 East Side Drive in Geneva on Sundays, October 14, November 25, March 10 and May 5 at 7 p.m. Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. 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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