THE ORION ENSEMBLE’S “CELEBRATION” SPOTLIGHTS CHICAGO COMPOSER MARC MELLITS

March 19, 2015

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, concludes its 22nd season A Taste of Chicago, A World of Romance with “Celebration,” a program showcasing Chicago composerMarc Mellits. Performances take place at the First Baptist Church of Geneva May 24; the PianoForte Studios in Chicago May 27; and the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston May 31.

The program
This concert features recent work by Chicago composer Marc Mellits, transcriptions of works by Cuban-born jazz legend Paquito D’Rivera, Reszö Kókai’sfolk-inspired Quartettino and Johannes Brahms’ epic second piano quartet.

Orion violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, cellist Judy Stone and guest violinist/violist Stephen Boeperform Mellits’ “Tapas” for string trio from 2007. During the last 30 years, Mellits has composed extensively for many instrument combinations. His compositions are played all over the world and continue to achieve great success with audiences and musicians alike. His style has been likened to the minimalism of Steve Reich, albeit far further developed, and some hear the influence of Third Stream classical jazz. “Tapas” offers original engaging music, ranging from melodious introspective textures to extroverted foot-tapping rhythmic excitement.

Orion clarinetist Kathryn Pirtle joins Ramniceanu, Stone and Boe to interpret Kókai’s Quartettino from 1952. Although clearly influenced by the folk music of his native Hungary, Kókai combines traditional elements with musical innovations from the early 20th century, reminiscent of particularly Kodaly’s and some of Bartók’s music, though far less edgy than the latter. As such, the Quartettino offers melodic writing, fresh-sounding harmonies and playful, agile rhythm.

Pirtle and Orion pianist Diana Schmück collaborate on Cuban-born jazz and classical legend Paquito D’Rivera’s “Vals Venezolano” and “Contradanza” from the early ’90s in an arrangement by Cuban master arranger and composer Marco Rizo. D’Rivera found fame as a performer and composer of music that spans styles ranging from Latin to bebop to classical and everything in between. More than any artist in recent history, he has shown that transcending the limitations of genre leads to musical innovation that moves and engages audiences. D’Rivera is the only artist to win Grammy Awards in classical and Latin categories.

Ramniceanu, Stone, Boe and Schmück interpret Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 2 in A Major from 1861, his longest work of chamber music (at 50 minutes). Brahms conceived the work after intensive study of Schubert’s music; he not only explores all facets of Schubert’s music (including references to popular song) but also shows the influence of Bach. He then combines these influences with his typical genius for grand-scale architecture, achieving a supreme sonorous balance of the ensemble with imaginative, melodic, rhythmic and harmonic composition.

Orion’s 2014–15 season
Orion’s 2014–15 season A Taste of Chicago, A World of Romance has featured a Chicago composer on each program: Jim Gailloreto, Sebastian Huydts, Stacy Garrop and Marc Mellits. Also during the season, Orion appears on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” March 23 and June 1, 2015.

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 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 “Celebration” takes place Sunday, May 24 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Wednesday, May 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall at PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, May 31 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.

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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,
and generous donations from our dedicated patrons.
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