“American Landscape” Showcases Orion Ensemble Musicians

March 1, 2016

The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, continues its 2015–16 season with a program highlighting American composers, “American Landscape,” showcasing its esteemed ensemble musicians: clarinetist Kathy Pirtle, violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, cellist Judy Stone and pianist Diana Schmück. Performances take place at First Baptist Church of Geneva March 13; the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston March 20; and the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago March 23.

The program
After premiering Jackson Berkey’s “Homage to Percy Bysshe Shelley’’ for the season’s opening concert program in the fall, Orion performs his “Earth Voices” for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1994), a work of haunting beauty and swaying rhythms, tantalizing the listener with mystical utterances. Berkey originally composed the piece as a song cycle for soprano, clarinet, cello and piano, then reworked it as an instrumental chamber piece, which he dedicated to The Orion Ensemble. “Earth Voices” strives to express in sound the beauties of nature and Mother Earth using the nuanced tones of each instrument.

Rick Sowash’s “Anecdotes and Reflections: A Portrait of America” for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1988–89) is a work of pointed rhythms and fanciful melodies, with a masterful blending of the four instruments. Orion performs two movements from this work that run the gamut of musical influences, from spirituals to Sousa-style marches, from Dixieland to Eastern European/Klezmer music.

One of Dvořák’s finest chamber works, his Trio in E Minor, Op. 90 for violin, cello and piano (Dumky) was written in 1891 and featured in his 40-concert farewell tour before he took over leadership of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. In classical works, the term Dumky means music that traverses many emotional expressions; from triumphant to melancholy, the music can change in an instant. In the opening of this work, cello and piano play a mystical duet, giving way to a yearning violin solo that in turn begins a round between the players as we are then swept away to the equally enchanting main theme.

Orion’s 2015–16 season
Orion’s 2015–16 season, Fantasies and Enchantments, concludes with “Musical Enchantments” in May and June, with guest violinist Mathias Tacke and guest violist Stephen Boe performing works by Dvořák, Beach and Brahms. Also during the season, Orion appears on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” March 28, 2016 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 “American Landscape” takes place Sunday, March 13 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Sunday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston; and Wednesday, March 23 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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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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