The Chicago Ensemble
The Chicago Ensemble’s season thus far has been fueled by a strong set of Austro-German and Parisian works from the Baroque era and contemporary gems.
Artistic director Gerald Rizzer is known for steering the ensemble, now deep into its 34th year, through an imaginative synthesis of familiar masterworks and lesser-known repertoire. Rather than work as a fixed trio, string quartet or quintet and only perform music composed for a locked configuration, the 11 members take turns onstage as called for. Now members Mathias Tacke (violin), Paul Vanderwerf (viola), Andrew Snow (cello) and Rizzer (piano) gear up for a “program of surprises.”
This week pits Mozart’s Trio in E major, K. 542, and Brahms’s emotionally intense Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60, against two minor composers who hang in there with the heavyweights. Prolific Soviet romanticist Reinhold Glière has rarely been performed in the U.S., although the brilliant pictorialism of his ballets made him a hit in his homeland. Here, the ensemble tackles his Eight Duets for violin and cello, Op. 39, a concise and lovely dialogue that ends in a breathtaking, locomotive rush.
Self-taught American composer Paul Creston lends the evening a flash of modernism, spotlighting the piano and viola in his bright and jaunty 1928 Suite, Op. 13. Creston, who smoked coffee grounds in a pipe, was a champion of the previously overlooked viola. The violin’s overshadowed sibling is an expressive primary instrument instead of mere background.