The Orion Ensemble, winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, concludes its 20th Anniversary Season with "Folk Inspirations with a Mexican Flair," welcoming back violinist-violist Stephen Boe and featuring a 20th anniversary commission by jazz musician Miguel de la Cerna. Performances take place May 5 at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, May 8 at Roosevelt University's Ganz Memorial Hall in Chicago and May 12 at Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.
Following his triumphant first work for Orion during the 2011-12 season, Miguel de la Cerna returns to contribute a 20th anniversary commission. Almas Perdidas (Lost Souls) is based on the experience of the indigenous people of the Americas-according to the composer, "those, in particular, who lost their lives mostly due to exposure to germs carried by European explorers. It is a one-movement piece based on a 12-tone row, but not limited to serial rules. I like to call it romantic serialism with jazz elements."
Two delightful, though very different, works by Mexican composers provide a hint of the breadth of music coming from the U.S.'s neighbor to the south.
Mexican composer Manuel Ponce wrote his Piano Trio (Romantico) in 1912, the same year he composed his well-known song Estrella. He is responsible for musically bringing the world to Mexico and Mexican music to the world through his compositions, performances and lectures. He had a long association with guitarist Andreas Segovia, and his music employs a range of styles, including romantic, nationalistic, impressionist and avant-garde.
Several generations after Ponce, Arturo Márquez's Zarabandeo for Clarinet and Piano reflects his interest in dance music from Cuba, as well as his family background in mariachi and Mexican folk music. Its rhythmic play gives a feel of improvisation and a sense of joy and freedom. In addition to works for orchestra, he wrote ballet and film music, and he continued to use Mexican, Cuban and Latin American musical resources, combined with rhythms and melodic ideas from 20th century popular urban music.
Johannes Brahms' Quartet in G Minor for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano, Op. 25, one of two referred to as the Hamburg Quartets, shows characteristics of the young composer, along with hints of the more mature Brahms. For example, like many of his early works, the movements are large and have many themes. Although the textures are thick, with the piano and strings often doubling or contrasting each other, there are hints, especially in the second movement, of the more mysterious and somber colors that became characteristic in his later oeuvre. The third movement combines lyricism with grandeur, and the final "Gypsy" movement is among the most exciting in the repertoire.