Chicago Sinfonietta’s “Primal Instincts” Concert Review – A Perfect Spring Concert


Spring arrived in Naperville on March 21st heralded by crocuses bursting forth, sunshine and the Chicago Sinfonietta’s spring inspired program performed at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College. The program included Music Director Mei-Ann Chen with special guest artists including renowned Spanish gaita player Cristina Pato and singers from Roosevelt University CCPA Conservatory Chorus and the Glen Ellyn children’s chorus Anima, in a concert inspired by artistic expressions of passion, fate, gluttony and love. It was a wonderful, memorable program that, happily, will be performed again at Symphony Center on Monday, March 23rd at 7:30.  Get tickets!


But wait! There was so much more.  In keeping with the mystical bohemian theme of the concert, both before the concert and at intermission, the audience had the opportunity to take part in palm readings, have their fortunes read with tarot cards and participate in prize giveaways. This added to the spirit of the evening.


The “Primal Instincts” program began with selections from Carmen Suites No.1 and No.2, orchestral works drawn from Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera Carmen and arranged by Ernest Guiraud, inspired by the fictional Spanish gypsy Carmen and her seduction of the soldier Don José.  In addition to the delight of seeing Music Director Mei-Ann Chen almost dancing as she conducted, hearing these pieces from Carmen performed on its own without staging or singing allowed the wonderful blends of orchestral sounds stand out.  This was a short and sweet beginning that whet our apetites for more music.


Very quickly the audience was introduced to Cristina Pato, a tour de force - beautiful to watch and multi talented.   This was the U.S. premiere of Emilio Solla’s work, A Galician Voyage: Concerto for Bagpipes, Piano & Orchestra.  This fiery jazz-tango inspired work was commissioned by Pato and premiered in Barcelona, Spain in the fall of 2014.  Pato has had an active professional career devoted to Galician popular and classical music and jazz; her careers have led to performances on major stages throughout the United States, Europe, India, Africa and China. This work gave me the answer to, what is a gaita?  How is it different from the bagpipes I have heard in Great Britain?


The Gaita, in Pato’s command emitted sounds, the likes of which I have never heard.  Related to other bagpipes, yes, but with sounds that ranged from tender and haunting to military. In addition to playing the Gaita, Pato sang, played the tambourine and piano and almost danced.  With the blending of orchestral music and Pato’s skills, the work was remarkable and unique. This work depicts a journey that begins in Northern Spain and ends in Buenos Aires. It would seem that Pato would need to be cloned to give this work its due.  Who else could perform this?  My husband and I were thrilled to have this memorable experience.  Pato was so enthusiastically received, that she graced the audience with the a folk song she played on the Galician bagpipe with sounds new to me, poignant and beautiful.


Intermission offered another opportunity to learn about one’s future and the lobby was buzzing with people  enthusiasticallt enjoying these activities.


The second half of the performance offered the final primordial blow with one of the most overpowering works of all time, Carl Orff’s scenic cantata Carmina Burana.  This work was inspired by medieval texts  (24)about the fickleness of fortune and the dangers of gluttony and lust (among other topics), with guest choral singers and vocal soloists. It is scored for an extra large orchestra, both an adult and children’s choir, three operatic soloists.  Dancing has also been included in some productions.


The Libretto for Carmina Burana in Latin and English was contained in the program and illuminated the music.  All of the performances were outstanding and included the Roosevelt University CCPA Conservatory Choir, Anima Young Singer of Greater Chicago, Kimberly Jones, Soprano, Jonathan Weyant, Tenor (expressing the agony of a dying swan) and Joseph Lattanzi, Baritone. The music was so powerful it was hard to sit in one place and as the piece concluded the audience almost flew out of their seats to applaud long and loud.  It was a fantastic evening.


I would be remiss not to mention what a joy it is not only to hear the work the conductor Chen brings to the audience but, watching her in action enhances the performance.

The Chicago Sinfonietta closes the 2014-15 season on June 6 & 8 by honoring the brave men and women of the armed forces.  Audience members are asked to submit digital photos of loved ones who have served or are serving our country.  These submitted photos will be projected during the performance to honor their service.  Chicago Sinfonietta United


As a prelude to this wonderful evening, my husband and I had the delight of having dinner at Kuma’s Asian Bistro around the corner at 216 S Washington St. in Naperville.  We thought the fusion menu allowed us great choices and we liked the ambiance, service and prices.  More information  


Photos by B. Keer if not indicated otherwise


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