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Chicago Symphony Orchestra 

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For years it has been fashionable, often with good reason, to bash the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for its lack of interest in new music, particularly American new music, particularly Chicago new music. There are a number of reasons, however, why this week's performance of Shulamit Ran's Concerto for Orchestra should not be perceived as a "token" CSO gesture: (1) though Ran is a woman and a Chicagoan, two good diplomatic reasons to perform the work, she is also one of the most promising composers in the country; (2) her Concerto for Orchestra is a large-scale four-movement work that will take up half of a CSO program, not a short piece sandwiched in a "pops" program or isolated in a new-music "ghetto"; (3) the piece will be conducted by Daniel Barenboim, a prominent conductor with the talent to make the piece work, not some would-be conductor given programming leftovers; and (4) the work is being played across a long CSO subscription week, meaning it will be heard by regular CSO subscribers across four concerts, instead of the usual three, or instead of a special one-time concert. That last point will likely be a blessing for last-minute ticket buyers, as many subscribers are afraid of new scores, and often turn back their seats to be resold when a new work is programmed. Also on the program: Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, 19th-century psychedelic program music about a guy who just couldn't say no to drugs. Today, 1:30 PM, Saturday, 8 PM, and Tuesday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, 2 20 S. Michigan; 435-6666.

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