CSO Chamber at the AIC Review - Light and Dark in Paintings and in Music

Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago is a wonderful venue for chamber music, and it was the perfect place in which to hear the Oberon Ensemble.  In addition to hearing beautiful music magnificently performed, one can join in the holiday spirit with the decorated lions, the gift shop and even Terzo Piano, for lunch or a snack.  And that doesn’t include the delights of just being in the Art Institute.


The Art Institute in holiday attire

It is always a delight to enter Fullerton Hall.  The Louis Comfort Tiffany designed stained-glass dome is exquisite, and the room is beautiful.  The setting enhances the music with wonderful acoustics and an intimate space. And these concerts are so popular that the room is usually filled.


The Stage

The program of  “Light and Dark” on Sunday, December 6, 2015 was perfect for this time of year, with the length of each day decreasing and each night increasing.  The CSO programs at the Art Institute have the added feature of exploring paintings from the Art Institute’s collection that pairs with the music, enhancing both.


Emily Beaver, Women’s Board Fellow, The Art Institute of Chicago began the program with commentary on four slides.  The use of light and dark were noted in: The bedroom, 1889 Vincent van Gogh, The Girl by the Window, 1893. Edvard Munch, Nighthawks, 1942. Edward Hopper, Nightlife, 1943. Archibald John Motley, Jr.  Although I am familiar with these works, with Emily Beaver’s guidance, I saw the light and dark elements differently.


Karen Barsrak


Catherine Brubaker


Lei Hou


Both the art and music in this concert were filled with contrasts. Mozart’s first and only music for string trio, his Divertimento in E-flat Major, was the “light” musical portion of this program.  The piece, played Lei Hou violin, Catherine Brubaker viola, Karen Basrak cello was relaxing, gentle and melodic. 



Photo of Victor Asuncion provided courtesy of the artist


After intermission, pianist, Victor Asuncion, joined the group. Brahms’ passionate and vibrant First Piano Quartet was a clear contrast to the Mozart piece, filled with whirling rhythms and Hungarian-influenced melodies.  It felt as though the piano lit a flame that caught the stringed instruments.  Energy flooded the room.  The intensity of the rhythmic and melodic aspects of this piece was very moving.


It was a joy to experience Victor Asuncion’s playing, his movements along with the beautiful sounds that came forth.  It was also fascinating to observe his use of music on his iPad rather than sheet music. As my companion said, “This was memorable”.  The audience that rose in thunderous applause seemed to agree.


Look at what is coming


Following the concert some attendees enjoyed, a postconcert gallery tour that included imagery from the permanent collection in which light plays a central role. 


Image: Edvard Munch. The Girl by the Window, 1893. Searle Family Trust and Goldabelle McComb Finn endowments; Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection. © 2015 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


Other people headed for the gift shop, other galleries, dinner or home.


- See more about CSO Chamber Music Events

Musician Photo credit: Courtesy of the Oberon Ensemble


Other photos: B. Keer

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