Orion Ensemble Review – A Season Opener with Flair, Care and Music from Everywhere

You still have two opportunities to enjoy Orion Ensemble’s first concert of its new season without having to shout “Encore!” once. Chamber Treasures Meet Chicago Jazz, opens with “Spanish Flair,” featuring works by Cassadó, Granados, Khachaturian and Stravinsky. It will reprise on October 5 at Roosevelt University’s Ganz Memorial Hall in Chicago and October 9 at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church inGeneva.


The program

Thanks to the exceptional acoustics of the Music Institute of Chicago Nichols Concert Hall and its stunning ambiance, “Spanish Flair” was especially powerful.

 Part of Daniel Pearl World Music Days, the concert was dedicated to bridge cultural differences and bring harmony to the world. Was it a coincidence that on Sunday the last bullfight ever was fought in Spain? Piano trios by two Catalan composers—Cassadó and Granados created exciting musical synergy with early 20th century works by Aram Khachaturian and Igor Stravinsky. Sounds of Armenian, Georgian and Azerbaijani folk melodies; sounds of sadness and rejoicing in music at community and family gatherings; and sounds of colorful folk instruments accompanying the dances of the region. And to the mix Stravinsky’s always challenging jazzy clarinet pieces: a fascinating, gutsy, multi-ethnic musical mélange was created Sunday night in “Spanish Flair.”

 Orion’s 2011–12 season

Orion’s 2011–12 season continues in November with “Classical Romance,” including works by Beethoven and Schubert; in March, “Celebrating Women Composers,” with works by Stacy Garrop, Louise Farrenc, Phyllis Tate and Fanny Mendelsshon; and, in May, with “All That Jazz!” featuring special guest pianist Miguel de la Cerna, who contributes a work commissioned for Orion on a program that also includes a Fauré quartet and Dokshitser’s arrangement of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” for clarinet and piano.

 In addition to its annual four-concert series in three areas, the Orion Ensemble will appear on the broadcast series “Live from WFMT” December 5, 2011 and March 12, 2012 and in the   and November 21, 2011. Orion also tours, performing in chamber music series across the country. Its most recent CD is Twilight of the Romantics.

 The Orion Ensemble

Founded in 1992, the Orion Ensemble boasts a roster of five superb musicians—Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano), Judy Stone (cello) and Jennifer Marlas (viola)—who have performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony, Moscow Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chicago’s Music of the Baroque orchestra, and at music festivals including Ravinia, Aspen, Mostly Mozart, Hollywood Bowl, Taos Chamber Music, Salzburg and Banff.


The Orion Ensemble received a Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration, “An Inside Look at Contemporary Music.”


The group is also currently the Ensemble-in-Residence at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts. The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture; the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; and the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development.


Performance and ticket information

The Orion Ensemble’s “Spanish Flair” concert program takes place

  • Wednesday, October 5, 7:30 p.m. at RooseveltUniversity’s Ganz Memorial Hall, 430 S. Michigan Avenue inChicago;
  • Sunday, October 9, 7 p.m. at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church, 227 East Side Drive inGeneva.


Single tickets are $26, $23 for seniors and $10 for students; children 12 and younger are free. 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.

Photos: Music Institute of Chicago and Cornelia Babbitt for Orion Ensemble 


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