Contemporary Chamber Players | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Contemporary Chamber Players 

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After heading the University of Chicago-based Contemporary Chamber Players for more than three decades, founder Ralph Shapey has finally passed the baton to the next generation. His successor, Yale-trained California Institute of the Arts professor Stephen Mosko, is part of a funky west coast contingent that's enamored of multimedia, cyberspace, and music from the Pacific Rim, and while still advocating pluralism--a CCP hallmark--Mosko's debut program as music director tilts slightly westward. Milton Babbitt's schematic Consortini (1989), a clever interplay of instrumental layers, represents the American old guard, while the European establishment is covered by Olivier Messiaen's Piece pour piano et quatuor a cordes (1991), one of his final works, in which the piano engages in a pas de deux with a string quartet and, as usual with the French innovator, a bright birdcall serves as a refrain. For a touch of midwest iconoclasm Mosko includes the world premiere of John Eaton's Lettere. Composed during a sojourn in Italy last year and based on poems by Michele Ranchetti, this song cycle mourns the death of a parent. Both Chen Yi's The Points (1991) and Wadada Leo Smith's Tao-Njia (1994) pay homage to Asian traditions: the melodic material in The Points, to be performed on a pipa (a pear-shaped, four-stringed lute), is taken from the opera of central China, and Tao-Njia, whose title combines Chinese and Swahili terms to mean "the right path," is a largely improvisational ensemble piece based on a complicated notational system Smith invented. Soloists include mezzo-soprano Nelda Nelson and pipa wiz Min Xiao-fen. Friday, 8:30 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Stephen Mosko.

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