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Chicago Symphony Orchestra 

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Possibly the most famous choral work of the 20th century, Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, will be performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at Ravinia tonight for the first time in 15 years. Unquestionably Orff's greatest composition, it's also one of the most frequently paraphrased pieces of music, turning up in everything from commercials to horror films. The explosive opening, the hypnotic, chantlike singing, and the percussion-driven accompaniment work together to create an atmosphere of riveting suspense; with the sudden fortissimos the effect is overwhelming. The text is from a collection of secular medieval poems written by wandering scholars and former monks that range from the profound to the profane, and Orff's use of folk melodies and children's voices makes some of the lighter songs enchantingly playful. Another big, boisterous choral work is also on the program--a bit much for one concert, but, hey, the chorus and extra percussionists are already there. Shostakovich's The Execution of Stepan Razin, a Chicago-area premiere, is a single-movement drama for chorus and bass soloist with a brooding theme and tremendous rhythmic drive; it's set to a poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko that's based on the true story of a 17th-century man who led an unsuccessful uprising against the czar. The work is from 1964, the beginning of Shostakovich's late period, so it's dark and Mussorgskian. The dual role of Razin and the narrator will be sung by Russian baritone Sergey Murzaev, who's making his Ravinia debut. James Conlon conducts. $40, $30, $20, $10. Friday, July 23, 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100.

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