Weather Updates

Chicago Symphony Orchestra offers fine bill of chamber concertos

12/13/12 9:22:07 PM Chicago Symphony Orchestr. © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2012

12/13/12 9:22:07 PM Chicago Symphony Orchestra . © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2012

storyidforme: 41647885
tmspicid: 15406385
fileheaderid: 6981137



◆ 8 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

◆ Symphony Center,
220 S. Michigan

◆ Tickets, $10-$243

◆ (312) 294-3000,

Updated: December 15, 2012 10:53PM

The cash register-ringing and pops-oriented “Welcome Yule!” family concerts fill much of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s schedule from now through Dec. 23. So for this week’s subscription concerts, a scaled-down CSO roster is offering an engaging program of chamber concertos by Bach with 20th and 21st century pieces inspired by his creativity.

The menu of five short works has the additionally attractive presence of the two first-desk CSO violists in a Brandenburg Concerto, two guest violinists of note from two different generations in two other pieces and the first full solo turn from one of the CSO’s most beloved younger members.

The newest piece is the brand-new “Prince of Clouds” by CSO Mead composer-in-residence, Anna Clyne. It was commissioned from Clyne by a consortium of four American institutions and had its world pre­miere just last month in Germantown, Tenn., by the IRIS Orchestra. Inspired by the work’s soloists, Glen Ellyn native Jennifer Koh, 36, and her teacher and mentor Jaime Laredo, 71, and their desire to perform works together, Clyne has created a 15-minute work with audience appeal., seen It’s seen as a pendant to the famous Bach Double Concerto, which closed the evening.

At the work’s local premiere Thursday at Orchestra Hall, you could hear how Clyne’s piece follows the example of 20th century composers who chose to work within historic tonality but then dispensed with traditional ideas of sonata form and development, and instead luxuriated in melody. Barber, Vaughan Williams, Gorecki and Part all seemed to hover around this major-key work with little harmonic variation. Student and teacher passed the gentle melody back and forth, accompanied by strings, as they would in the richer Bach work to follow that followed on the program.

Principal viola Charles Pikler and his regular seatmate, assistant principal Li-Kuo Chang, were soloists in the concert-opening Sixth Brandenburg, BWV 1051, and with their four CSO colleagues and English guest conductor Harry Bicket at the (very hard to hear) harpsichord, set much of the program’s tone: a smooth, dark, attractive sound, not overly Romantic but still closer to orchestral playing than to the full spark of Baroque performance style.

It seemed odd, but by no means a failure, that Bicket, whose Baroque work in opera houses and chamber concerts is impeccable, did not push for more of a crisp, bouncy sound and method either in the Bach works or Stravinsky’s Bach-connected 1937-38 “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto. Nevertheless, the choir of five winds, complementing the strings, kept the normally pointillistic Stravinsky work going, and beautifully so.

Scott Hostetler stole much of the show, and the affection and admiration of his colleagues and the audience, with his remarkable work in the Bach Oboe d’amore Concerto, BWV 1055. Appointed in 2002 by Daniel Barenboim to the oboe section, Hostetler was given the English horn chair by Bernard Haitink in 2008. Playing the notoriously difficult instrument that falls between its soprano (oboe) and alto (English horn) siblings, Hostetler combined calm and seduction as he spun Bach’s lines flawlessly. That and the real dialogue between Koh and Laredo in the closing Bach Double, BWV 1043, stayed in the ears through the night and into the next day.

Andrew Patner is critic at large for WFMT-FM (98.7).

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.