The Orion Ensemble Celebrates 25th Season with World Premiere, Favorites

The Orion Ensemble Celebrates 25th Season with World Premiere, Favorites

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, celebrates 25 years of chamber music performance with four concert programs welcoming respected guest musicians who will join Orion's three founding members--clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu and pianist Diana Schmück--along with longtime cellist Judy Stone.

The season features a 25th anniversary world premiere and several favorite Orion works from past seasons.

"We are grateful to our loyal audiences and the thousands of people our music has touched in Chicago and across the country," said Pirtle. "Throughout the years, we have had the opportunity and joy of sharing our stage with some of the finest artists in music, dance, poetry and visual arts. We are particularly proud of greatly expanding the repertoire for our instrumentation by inspiring and commissioning many composers." Ramniceanu added, "We are blessed to have made music together for 25 years, growing into the chamber music family we are today. The generosity and support of our funders and patrons has inspired us to do more for our community and reach for the stars. We are looking forward to continuing for many years as we share our love of music."

The Orion Ensemble Celebrates 25th Season with World Premiere, Favorites

Orion performs each concert program at venues spanning the Chicago area, including the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago, the First Baptist Church of Geneva-Chapelstreet Church and the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston. Guest violist Stephen Boe will participate in all four concert programs.

The Orion Ensemble Celebrates 25th Season with World Premiere, FavoritesThe season opens with "A Beautiful Oboe and Friends," featuring two additional guests: Alex Klein, oboe, and Robert Kassinger, bass. This program revives two works Orion performed with Klein in 2002: Mozart's Quartet in A Major for oboe, violin, viola and cello, K. 370/368b and Prokofiev's Quintet in G minor for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and bass. The program also includes Mozart's Sonata in B-flat Major for bass, oboe and cello, K. 292/196c and Schubert's Quintet in A Major (Trout) for violin, viola, cello, bass and piano. Performances take place September 24 (Geneva), September 27 (Chicago) and October 1 (Evanston).

The Orion Ensemble Celebrates 25th Season with World Premiere, Favorites "Let's Tango" brings back more Orion favorites, including Bernstein's Sonata for clarinet and piano (1942); von Dohnanyi's Serenade in C Major for string trio, Op. 10; Horn's Black Tango for violin, viola, cello and piano (2002); and Schumann's Quartet in E-flat Major for violin, viola, cello and piano, Op. 47. Performances are November 5 (Geneva), November 8 (Chicago) and November 12 (Evanston). "Old Meets New" for the season's third concert program, featuring a world premiere in honor of Orion's 25th anniversary by Sebastian Huydts, along with selections from Bruch's Eight Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 83; Klein's Trio for violin, viola and cello (1944); and Fauré's Quartet No. 1 in C minor for violin, viola, cello and piano, Op. 15. Performances are March 4 (Geneva), March 7 (Chicago) and March 11 (Evanston). The Orion Ensemble Celebrates 25th Season with World Premiere, Favorites

The season concludes with "Quintessential Quintets," with additional guest artist violinist Mathias Tacke joining Stephen Boe and Orion for a program including Weber's Quintet in B-flat Major for clarinet and string quartet, Op. 34; Gershwin's Lullaby for string quartet (1919); and Dvo?ák's Quintet No. 2 in A Major for string quartet and piano, Op. 81. Performances are May 13 (Geneva), May 23 (Chicago) and May 27 (Evanston). Also during the season, Orion hosts a fall benefit October 7 at Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne, Illinois and appears on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" October 2, 2017 and March 5, 2018.

Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. For the fifth year, Orion continues its educational initiatives under the banner Janet's Stage, a one-of-a-kind collaboration with the orchestra departments and chamber music ensembles at partner high schools in Fox Valley, the western suburbs and Chicago. The Orion musicians provide multifaceted, year-long student support. The program offers practical, individualized learning through master classes and chamber music coaching, performances for students and parents at each school, invitations to attend Orion concerts and the opportunity for student ensembles to perform on the Orion concert stage. Orion also works with ensembles at the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras and presents programs with students from the Chicago High School for the Arts.

The Orion Ensemble Celebrates 25th Season with World Premiere, Favorites

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 performs its 2017-18 concert programs at three Chicago-area venues: the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Wednesdays, September 27, November 8, March 7 and May 23 at 7:30 p.m.; the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston on Sundays, October 1, November 12, March 11 and May 27 at 7:30 p.m.; and First Baptist Church of Geneva-Chapelstreet Church, 2300 South Street in Geneva on Sundays, September 24, November 5, March 4 and May 13 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

Top photo (L-R): Cellist Judy Stone, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle and pianist Diana Schmück. Photo by Cornelia Babbitt.
Second photo (L-R): Violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, guest violist Stephen Boe, pianist Diana Schmück, cellist Judy Stone and clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle. Photo by Ed Ingold.
Photos of bassist Robert Kassinger, oboist Alex Klein and violinist Mathias Tacke courtesy of the artists.
Bottom photo: Violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, pianist Diana Schmück, clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle and cellist Judy Stone. Photo by Cornelia Babbitt.

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