Orion Commision (2002)
After Orion’s original members first performed Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano (1938) by Bela Bartók, they formed what is now the Orion Ensemble. Contrasts is Bartók’s only chamber music that includes a wind instrument; it was commissioned by America’s “King of Swing,” Benny Goodman. The title of the work refers to many of its elements: tempos, textures, dynamics, keys and instruments. Not only do the clarinet, violin and piano belong to different families of instruments, the clarinetist and violinist each use two different instruments in the final movement. The work uses folk themes from Hungary and Romania along with compositional devices such as polyphony, imitation and motivic manipulation.
Orion commissioned Chicago composer Sebastian Huydts’ Quintet for Clarinet, Piano, Violin, Viola and
Cello, Op. 30 (2002) for its 10th anniversary. According to Huydts, the first movement of the Quintet evokes one of those summer nights in which a serene calm prevails, and life seems to offer nothing but good. The second movement opens with a playful statement by the cello, picked up by the other instruments. The third movement offers bluesy harmonies in tribute to the composer’s father, a jazz musician, and the fourth movement returns to a lively atmosphere, influenced by song and dance from Andalusia, notably Flamenco.
Schumann’s Quartet in E-Flat Major for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 47, a masterpiece of that genre, has hints of the genres of the composer’s earlier works, including songs, solo piano works, string quartets and symphonies. Orion programmed this chamber music favorite for its opening Gala (June 21, 1993) and often thereafter in its touring concerts as well as subscription concerts in Chicagoland.
Orion’s 20th Anniversary Season
Orion’s 2012–13 season continues in November and December with “A Night at the Opera,” featuring guest violist Roger Chase and violinist Stephen Boe and including works by Weber, Liszt and Verdi; in March with “A Voice from Heaven,” featuring guest soprano Patrice Michaels and works by Schubert, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Shostakovich; and, in May with “Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair,” featuring special guest pianist Miguel de la Cerna contributing his second work commissioned for Orion on a program also including Márquez, Ponce and Brahms and welcomes back Stephen Boe on viola.
In addition to its annual four-concert series in three areas, the Orion Ensemble will appear on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” November 26, 2012 and May 6, 2013 and in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Lunchbreak Series “Classical Mondays” October 15 and November 19, 2012. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.