Lyric Opera, CSO, and Chamber Ensembles Perform for Make Music Chicago’s Glorious Culmination

MMC logo for webIt’s not every day you get to hear members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and a host of virtuosic chamber ensembles all in one glorious concert. But that’s exactly what we enjoyed at the Make Music Chicago Grand Finale this past Friday evening at the St. James Cathedral. The extravaganza was the culminating event of the city’s participation in the Fête de la Musique, an annual global event during which musicians in more than 450 cities around the world celebrate the art of making music with free performances. Make Music Chicago included nearly 1,000 amateur and professional musicians of all ages playing in shows across the city.

The Grand Finale kicked off with a trumpet fanfare by Chicago Symphony Orchestra trumpeters Christopher Martin and Tage Larsen performing Johann Veirdanck’s Capriccio. Audience members swiveled in their seats to see the musicians as they performed at the rear of the church.

Next, the Spektral Quartet performed Giuseppe Verdi’s little-known String Quartet in E minor. The vast space of the church blurred the clarity of the rapid notes in the Allegro and Prestissimo movements, although it contributed a lush sheen to the aria-like Andantino.

Verdi’s work was followed, appropriately enough, by performers from Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center and Lyric pianist Alan Darling. Mezzo-soprano Julie Anne Miller struggled with pitch problems in Henry Purcell’s “When I Am Laid in Earth” from Dido and Aeneas and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Soliloquy” from Carousel. Baritone Anthony Clark Evans displayed his powerful set of pipes and chameleon-esque ability to portray a character in “Hai gian vinta la causa” from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and “My Boy Bill” from Carousel .

Keyboardist extraordinaire David Schrader provided whimsical organ improvisations during the set changes between performances. The audience particularly enjoyed Schrader’s furious atonal organ romp following the Lyric Opera musicians.

Violinist Janet Sung and pianist Kuang-Hao Huang gave a nod to Make Music Chicago’s French origins with their performance of Francis Poulenc’s Violin Sonata, Op. 119. Sung played the Allegro and Presto movements with a sound thicker and juicier than a ribeye steak. Huang brushed a watercolor palette of sound for the Intermezzo.

The new music group Fifth House Ensemble performed works from their chamber music festival for emerging young musicians and composers, fresh inc. Jason Charney’s Ocean Body (2012) for violin, viola, cello, and bass, filled the church in a wash of ethereal sound. Chelsea Reisner’s Steam (2011) for flute and clarinet was a carbonated rush of jazzy rhythms and bright notes. The group also performed the world premiere of Evan Williams’s Grime, the winning composition from 2013’s fresh inc festival. Written for the same instrumentation as Ocean Body, the work unfurled from accented unison notes at its beginning to the highest register of the violin and the lowest of the bass at its climax before receding back into unison at the end.

As the concert reached its two-hour mark (with no intermission!), the wind ensemble Quintet Attacca provided a welcome breath of fresh air with the percolating dance rhythms of three Latin American works – Paquito D’Rivera’s Wapango, Arturo Márquez’s Danza de Mediodia, and Ástor Piazzolla’s Libertango.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet finished out the night with the bombastic Fire Dance by Anthony DiLorenzo and selections from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. Tage Larsen’s sumptuous solo in “Summertime” melted against the ears like chocolate ice cream against the taste buds. The brass quintet’s finale was a fitting and inspirational close to the day’s celebration of the art of making music.

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