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Chicago Chamber Musicians 

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CHICAGO CHAMBER MUSICIANS

None of the 14 members of the Chicago Chamber Musicians, about half of them CSO or former CSO players, is second-rate. The string players (aka the Chicago String Quartet), just for example, are lucid, thoughtful interpreters, and Larry Combs, a CSO star and jazz aficionado, is a Benny Goodman-like chameleon who can execute breathtaking arabesques and add a touch of eloquence to the plainest phrase. The group's popularity and its mainstream tastes--the members favor a repertoire bracketed by Mozart and Stravinsky--probably helped it secure close to half a million dollars in public and private grants to pay for its Music at the Millennium project, a three-year sampler of what the ensemble regards as milestones of our century. The list of 70 or so works is fairly inclusive and gives a nod to all of the century's significant innovators, though the title of this program, "Pop Culture and the Minimalists," seems a little odd. Steve Reich, represented by his 1982 Vermont Counterpoint, is no longer a card-carrying minimalist, and John Adams, represented by his playful 1996 Gnarly Buttons, now uses minimalist gestures only as part of a bigger stylistic lexicon. Aaron Jay Kernis is as much a minimalist as Elvis was; his guitar quintet 100 Greatest Dance Hits is a crowd-pleasing series of sound bites, sort of like a hit parade of 70s pop tunes. David Sampson, whose contribution is the CCM commission Dectet, isn't known as a minimalist--and who knows how Stravinsky's neoclassical Octet fits. Sampson will give a preconcert talk beginning at 6:30 PM. Friday, 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-225-5226 or 312-397-4010. TED SHEN

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