SONATA for Two Violins, Op. 56
VOCALISE for Cello and Piano, Op. 34, No. 14
QUARTET No. 1 in B-flat Major for Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello
ROMANIAN RHAPSODY Op. 11, No. 1
arranged for Orion by Ilya Levinson and by Peter Labella
This concert combines recently composed work with arrangements of audience favorites, in addition to two lesser-known but highly appealing works from great composers of the 19th and 20th century chamber repertoire. Joining Orion is guest violinist/violist Stephen Boe, a sought-after chamber musician who teaches at the Music Institute of Chicago.
Orion invited Chicago composer Sebastian Huydts, who studied piano at the Sweelinck Conservatory in The Netherlands, to write a trio for violin, cello and piano for this concert. Huydts holds an M.A. in composition from the University of Chicago, where he studied composition with Shulamit Ran, Howard Sandroff, Cliff Colnot and John Eaton. Internationally renowned artists frequently perform his works. He is director of keyboard studies at Columbia College Chicago.
Written in a style and tonality evocative of times past, and inspired by the poetry of Octavio Paz, the trio is an extensive elegy for Huydts’ lifelong friend Elise Mann, who, after a long battle with breast cancer, passed away last year at the young age of 48. The piece draws from the Mendelssohn Op. 66 Trio, which held special meaning to Elise during various stages of her life. The composer wrote, “By weaving bits and pieces of the Mendelssohn into the present work, I tried to explore and find out what captivated her, and thus created a musical conversation of sorts between her and me.” As such, the Trio, which Orion musicians Florentina Ramniceanu, Judy Stone and Diana Schmück will interpret, balances dark and sometimes agitated moments with light and decidedly more peaceful moments and lush melodic music.
Ramniceanu and guest Stephen Boe perform Prokofiev’s spellbinding Sonata for Two Violins from 1932. The composer intended to write a substantial piece to prove this medium could hold one’s attention as successfully as other combinations. Indeed, this work offers a combination of lyricism with dramatic and virtuoso gestures in an arresting yet balanced way, creating a piece of remarkable depth.
Rachmaninov’s beloved Vocalise from 1912 was actually the last of his Fourteen Songs, Op. 34. A vocalise is usually an exercise for the voice, a song to be sung using a vowel at the discretion of the performer. Rachmaninov turned this “exercise” into a heartfelt and sublime work that won him a large audience. Countless instrumental and orchestral arrangements have been made; Orion musicians Stone and Schmück perform the version for cello and piano, which many agree comes closest to the vocal version, with the cello's ability to bring out the work’s lyrical and elegiac character.
Iwan Müller’s Quartet No. 1 in B-flat Major for Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello is a rarely heard delicacy for the combination. A lively opening movement features early 19th century clarinet virtuosity of the highest order, full of energetic and inventive moments. A surprisingly brief yet lyrical and warm second movement offers depth and delight in a setting of great chamber music. A sprightly, life-affirming Polonaise that makes one want to dance crowns the work. Müller's work as a composer was likely overshadowed by his contributions as an inventor: the ways he improved the clarinet made it the instrument we know today.
Many great composers seem to be recognized for at least one defining work; the Romanian Rhapsody Op. 11, No. 1 by George Enescu in 1901 is clearly such a work. It remains standard on the repertoire list of all orchestras and continues to inspire audiences with its intoxicating mix of virtuosity, exoticism and sublime orchestral writing. Orion brings back the origins of this piece by presenting a powerful and tantalizing transcription for piano, strings and clarinet. "Because we are showcasing Chicago composers this season, we will perform two versions of the Romanian Rhapsody created especially for Orion by two more of our favorite Chicago composers, Ilya Levinson and Peter LaBella,” said Orion Executive Director and clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle.