Orion Opens Season with Revival of Commissioned Wintle Trio Joining Works by Mozart and Zemlinsky in Geneva (Sep. 18), Evanston (Sep. 25), Chicago (Sep. 28)

October 13, 2016

To open its 24th season, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, presents “Collage of Colors,” welcoming guest violist Stephen Boe. Performances take place at First Baptist Church of Geneva September 18; the Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston September 25; and the PianoForte Studios in downtown Chicago September 28.

The program
James Wintle’s Pontoon-Bridge Miracle for clarinet, violin and piano, commissioned by Orion in 1996, is a highly programmatic and expertly crafted piece based on a poem about Chicago by American poet Nicholas Vachel Lindsay (1879–1931). Wintle’s music complements the rhythmic inspiration of Lindsay, who is considered the founder of modern singing poetry, which is meant to be chanted or sung. The work is in seven sections, evoking Chicago in both lively present and ghostly past, including one section that represents P.T. Barnum’s circus animals parading down Michigan Avenue. Wintle was a professor of music at Southeastern Oklahoma State University who focused on collaborative relationships with specific chamber groups.

Mozart’s Duo in B-flat Major for violin and viola, K. 424 was an act of friendship. In July 1783, Mozart and his new bride, Constanze, visited Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace. Essentially on vacation, the two enjoyed hiking and renewing contacts with friends. One of these was Michael Haydn, brother of the famous composer and a brilliant composer and musician in his own right. Commissioned by the Archbishop of Salzburg (Mozart’s old boss) to compose six duos for violin and viola, Michael Haydn fell ill and was unable to complete the work. Mozart stepped in and composed the remaining two duos for a friend in need. Particularly fascinating in the Duo in B-Flat Major are the Andante cantabile, featuring the viola’s expressive range, and the charming Theme and Variations of the Finale.

The Quartet in E-flat Major for violin, viola, cello and piano, K. 493 features some of Mozart’s finest and most elegant writing for piano and strings—in essence, a piano concerto in miniature. Upon finding Mozart’s first piano quartet (in G Minor) too difficult and moody, publisher Franz Anton Hoffmeister released him from his obligation to produce more quartets for publication. Mozart, never discouraged by rejection, went ahead and completed this work, his second quartet.

Alexander von Zemlinsky’s Trio in D Minor for clarinet, cello and piano, Op. 3 so impressed Brahms that he immediately brought it to the attention of his publisher, Simrock. Simrock thought highly of the music but suggested the more conventional instrumentation of violin, cello and piano. Zemlinsky made a second arrangement of the work to Simrock’s request but kept the original scoring for his own use. The original version, powerful and richly textured, beautifully depicts the ideals of late Romantic Era chamber music—large in scope but highly intimate in expression.

Orion’s 2016–17 season
Orion’s 2016–17 season, Miniatures and Masterworks, continues with “Serenade by Three: Orion Beginnings” in November, spotlighting Orion’s original three members with works by Yadzinski, Granados, Khatchaturian, John Williams and Glick; “Connections” in March, welcoming back 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 Illinois Arts Council, 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 “Collage of Colors” takes place Sunday, September 18 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Geneva, 2300 South Street in Geneva; Sunday, September 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston; and Wednesday, September 28 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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