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Chicago Symphony Orchestra 

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When John Corigliano accepted the position of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first ever composer-in-residence three years ago, he expected to produce a large orchestral work here, although what form such a work might take was unclear to him. That was before Corigliano lost some of his dearest friends to AlDS, and before he saw the Names quilt project. The power of that experience inspired him to write his First Symphony, as a tribute in particular to the three friends who are the subjects of the work's first three movements. The symphony calls for enormous forces and extraordinary virtuosity, recalling the serious and tragic symphonies of Gustav Mahler. There are some haunting and painful moments, notably the mysterious appearance of an Albeniz piano piece associated with a late concert pianist (played offstage by British pianist Stephen Hough), and a frantic cello section where one lone "voice" is joined by those of other AIDS victims. But there is hope and humor, too, and the ultimate realization of the endless cycle of life, depicted aurally by a semicircle of 18 brass players representing the timeless image of ocean waves. These are the world premiere performances, led by Daniel Barenboim, who will also play Beethoveen's Third Piano Concerto and conduct from the keyboard. Tonight and Saturday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666 or 435-8122.


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