Which Way Home: 5 Songs on Words by Anne Sexton for Soprano, Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano (2009)
Quinted in C Minor for Piano and String Quartet (1902)
Drew Hemenger's cycle, titled Which Way Home?, uses the timbral and textural possibilities inherent in Orion's five instruments to enhance Sexton's words and musically express the shifting moods. Hemenger, a cofounder of Chamber Music Now whose music has been performed throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia, originally set Sexton's "manic, crazy and utterly brilliant" poems as part of an earlier project with Berneche. "I tried to give a glimpse into this woman's life by showing a small cross-section of her work. In the cycle, there are crazy and tragic moments as well as happy and awestruck ones," Hemenger wrote. "Three years ago, Alicia again approached me and proposed arranging a few of the songs for the wonderful Orion Ensemble. I was thrilled and, after consulting with Orion, expanded five of the eight poems, adding a new intro and recomposing several sections, so the result is actually a new work with its own dramatic arch."
Berneche also will collaborate with Orion's Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet) and Diana Schmück (piano) to bring to life the Six German Songs, Op. 103 by Louis Spohr (1784-1850). Highly effective in exploiting the dramatic and coloristic possibilities of voice, clarinet and piano, the songs are settings of poems by different German poets-Romantic-period expressions of love, longing, lullaby or loss.
For the program's final work, Orion is delighted to welcome back Baird Dodge, principal second violin for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for Piano Quintet, Op. 1 by Hungarian composer Ernst Dohnányi (1877-1960). Recognized during his lifetime as the greatest Hungarian musician after Liszt, his compositions are known for their expressive Romantic color held in classical formal structures-new wine in old wineskins, where the content simply fills those containers fully. Dohnányi is considered a true disciple of Brahms, using a similar Romantic palette and classical forms and finding inspiration in the urban Gypsy music that Brahms also used in some of his works.