Critic's Choice/Music | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Critic's Choice/Music 

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LINDA WANG AND ELENA ABEND

It's been 20 years since Al Booth, a former real estate executive devoted to the cause of classical music, started the weekly Dame Myra Hess concert series at the Chicago Cultural Center. He was inspired by the example of Hess, a distinguished English pianist who at the outset of World War II persuaded her government to fund a daily recital series at the National Gallery. By the end of the war, the series had become a cultural institution in London, an indispensable way for musicians to continue practicing their art and for audiences to enjoy a respite from the harsh realities of war. In its own way, Booth's homage to Hess has turned out to be just as valuable, presenting upward of 1,000 free concerts, most of which have introduced fresh talent to Chicago. Other than exceptional musicianship, the only criterion for inclusion is age: one must be under 35 or over 85. The series has showcased virtuosos like violinist Rachel Barton, cellist Nathaniel Rosen, and soprano Barbara Hendricks, all of whom have moved on to illustrious solo careers or joined prominent outfits like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At 27, violinist Linda Wang is poised for such a move. Her resume reads like a road map to the fast track: she debuted with the New York Philharmonic at 9, studied at Juilliard under Dorothy DeLay and the University of Southern California under Ruggiero Ricci, and won a Fulbright to Salzburg's Mozarteum. Her playing is as sensational as you'd expect, with a gorgeous tone and delicate phrasing--qualities congenial to the sonatas of Eugene Ysaye (no. 4) and Robert Schumann (no. 1), both on this program. The choice of Ysaye is telling: the Belgian patron saint of modern virtuosity, he was a master of the tempo rubato, a way of stretching a melodic line to an exquisite thinness--which is Wang's forte as well. She'll be accompanied by pianist Elena Abend, a Juilliard grad and familiar face on the local recital circuit. Wednesday, 12:15 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-670-6888 or 312-346-3278. Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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