Crosscurrents | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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The title of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's ongoing contemporary chamber series, "Out of the Ordinary," serves to warn older subscribers even as it tries to sell younger listeners on the notion that Orchestra Hall is a hip forum for today's music. Yet tonight's program, titled "Crosscurrents" and curated by composer in residence Shulamit Ran, has a Johnny-come-lately feel. By now most of us are keenly aware that pop culture has influenced 20th-century composers, that jazz, folk, and other popular idioms permeate the music of Bartok, Stravinsky, and their followers. But perhaps this hoary thesis is serving simply as an excuse to create a multicultural roster: Duke Ellington, Henryk Gorecki, Betty Olivero, Chen Yi, Scott Lindroth, and Michael Daugherty. To be sure, these are interesting, academe-certified voices (though none of them has a Chicago accent). Gorecki's 1988 Already It Is Dusk, written for the Kronos Quartet, is based on an old Polish folk tune. Blue Like an Orange (1987), by the Yale-trained Daugherty, also a Kronos favorite, explores shadings of the blues. Juego de siempre ("The Never-Ending Game"), by the Israeli-born Olivero, also a Yale grad, consists of nine Ladino songs drawn from works passed orally from mother to daughter over the centuries. The sextet Near Distance, by the Chinese-born Chen, a Columbia PhD, rather predictably blends east Asian and Western elements. The most uncommon pieces are likely to be three of Ellington's works--"The Mooch," "Creole Love Call" (from his comic opera Queenie Pie), and "Transblucency"--all testaments to his bold inventiveness. The vocalists are Melodee Savage (in the Ellington set) and Julia Bentley (in the Olivero songs). Other participants include the CSO String Quartet, members of Chicago Pro Musica, flutist Mary Stolper, harpist Elizabeth Cifani, and guitarist Ron Steele. Cliff Colnot conducts. Friday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666.

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