The Storioni Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Storioni Ensemble 

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The Storioni Ensemble, founded by Russian emigre violinist Victor Yampolsky last season and named after a famous instrument maker, is already the pride and joy of Northwestern University's School of Music, which has wanted the world to know that its string faculty is just as capable as its wind and brass coaches. The core of this chamber orchestra consists of 19 string veterans--four quartets plus two basses and an extra first violin. Yampolsky can also add layers of other instruments according to his wide-ranging program choices. And he's not above using gimmicks to lure listeners. For this all-Russian affair he's come up with works by three composers named Tchaikovsky. Most of us are familiar with at least one of the trio; the other two are Boris and Alexander, related to each other (uncle-nephew) but not to Pyotr Ilyich. Boris Tchaikovsky, in his 60s, is a longtime prof at the Moscow Conservatory, where Yampolsky studied. Like most prominent musicians during the Soviet era, he raged quietly against the official line; his compositions in the 60s and 70s tend to reflect that frustration and a sense of intellectual gloom. His half-hour Piano Concerto of 1967 is typical. In terms of sound, it resembles a harpsichord concerto: the keyboard writing is percussive, devoid of any lingering melodies. The overriding tone of its five vignettes is deliberately tense and driven. The rhythmic repetitions are almost minimalist, and the introduction of a new idea invariably shocks. The concerto ends with a series of banging chords, as if the composer despairs at the lack of a resolution. The Piano Trio (1985) by the 45-year-old Alexander, a bright light of the perestroika generation, is a fantasy in one movement, said to be even more radical and forlorn than the older Tchaikovsky's statement of protest. For fans of czarist sentimentality and lyrical expression, there's always Pyotr's serenade, Souvenir de Florence--a veritable showcase for string players. Mykola Suk, a schoolmate of Yampolsky and an excellent pianist, is the soloist. Wednesday, 7:30 PM, Pick-Staiger Hall, 1977 S. Campus Dr.; 708-491-5441.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Renanah Kaufman.

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