Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Orion Premieres Arrangement of Ugandan Composer Justinian Tamusuza's Quartet in March

Justinian Tamusuza

The Orion Ensemble

Plus Works by Rolla, Huydts, Dvorák in Chicago, Evanston, Aurora

Highlighted by a premiere arrangement by and for its musicians, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, continues its 27th season with a diverse chamber music program combining classics with modern works. Performances, which also feature guest violist Stephen Boe , take place at a new venue this season--New England Congregational Church in Aurora--March 1, followed by a benefit reception; PianoForte Studios in Chicago March 4; and Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston March 8.
The program
A highlight of the concert is the premiere of Orion clarinetist Kathryne Pirtle and Orion violinist Florentina Ramniceanu's arrangement of Ugandan composer Justinian Tamusuza's Mu Kkubo Ery 'Omusaalaba (On the Way of the Cross) for clarinet quartet (1993), a rhythmically innovative and captivating work earlier recorded by the Kronos Quartet. Tamusuza blends Western classical and Ugandan traditional styles in his compositions, including African folk elements, minimalist techniques and poly-rhythms.
The Concertante Duo in E-Flat Major for violin and viola, Op. 5 by Alessandro Rolla features the highly expressive strains of early Romanticism, tempered by the charming elegance of Classical era influences. Known primarily as Paganini's teacher, Rolla was a viola and violin virtuoso whose many accomplishments include writing one of the first viola concertos.
Dvorák had an international reputation when he completed his Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op. 87 in 1889. Responding to his publisher Simrock's request, Dvorák composed this work only after completing his opera, The Jacobin. This masterful chamber work displays extraordinary writing for piano and prominent expressiveness for strings, resulting in an exquisitely crafted work in overall texture and tone.
Continuing a long and fruitful partnership with Chicago-based composer Sebastian Huydts (b. 1966), Orion performs selected movements of his Delicias de Blancanieves (Snow White's Delight, 2015), a highly imaginative work consisting of 27 fairy tales with a decidedly Spanish flavor. Strongly melodic and tuneful, offering much rhythmic variety and a fair amount of harmonic spice, each piece harbors a little story, suggested by its title. Orion's performance features selections Huydts has arranged specifically for the ensemble as well as original versions played by Orion pianist Diana Schmück.
Orion's 27th season
Orion's 2019-20 season, which includes violist Stephen Boe on all programs, concludes with Mozart, Borodin and Schumann, featuring guest violinist Mathias Tacke, in May. Orion appears on the broadcast series "Live from WFMT" May 11, 2020.
The Orion Ensemble
Founded in 1992, The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration "An Inside Look at Contemporary Music," features a roster of four superb musicians--Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano) and Judy Stone (cello)--who have performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia, as an ensemble and individually in solo, orchestral and other chamber music roles. The Chicago Tribune called Orion "one of Chicago's most vibrant, versatile and distinctive ensembles," and Peter Schickele (aka PDQ Bach) said Orion is "what chamber music should be all about: Individual virtuosity melded into a group personality." The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund, the Illinois Arts Council and generous donations from its patrons.
For a brief history, click here.  

Performance and ticket information
The Orion Ensemble's third concert program of its 27th season takes place Sunday, March 1 at a special time of 3 p.m., followed by a wine and cheese benefit reception, at its new venue, New England Congregational Church, 406 W. Galena Boulevard in Aurora; Wednesday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the PianoForte Studios, 1335 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago; and Sunday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in Evanston. Single tickets are $30, $25 for seniors (65+) and $15 for students; admission is free for children 12 and younger. A four-ticket flexible subscription provides a 10 percent savings on full-priced tickets. For tickets or more information, call 630-628-9591 or visit

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