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Chicago Sinfionetta kicks off 25th season with surprise

Music Director Mei-Ann Chen will lead Chicago Sinfoniettits seasopener Sept. 29 Naperville. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Music Director Mei-Ann Chen will lead the Chicago Sinfonietta in its season opener on Sept. 29 in Naperville. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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♦ 8 p.m. Sept. 29

♦ Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville

♦ Tickets, $10-$50

♦ (630) 637-7469;

Updated: October 29, 2012 6:39AM

Audience members at the Chicago Sinfonietta’s first concert of the new season — its milestone 25th season — will want to pay close attention to the opening number.

That’s because astute concert goers will be in for a fun surprise , teased Sinfonietta Music Director Mei-Ann Chen. And that’s all she would say on the subject, except to promise that this wasn’t going to be a “stuffy classical concert,” by any means.

“It’s going to be visually very stimulating; combining performing art with the repertoire we love,” she said. “I would encourage the audience to be on time, because you don’t want to miss what will be one of the most talked-about topics from that concert.”

The Sinfonietta opens its 25th anniversary season at North Central College in Naperville on Sept. 29 with “Performance. Art.” The 8 p.m. concert features a collaboration with the Brooklyn-based, high-energy chamber ensemble Project Trio comprised of a flute player, cellist and bassist who blend classical training with a wide array of musical styles; including jazz, hip-hop and rock. Floutist Greg Pattillo has, in fact, invented a way of beat-boxing on the flute that will leave jaws hanging open.

Chen credits the Sinfonietta’s executive director, Jim Hirsch, with discovering Project Trio on YouTube.

“They are so unique, and when you see them perform, there’s so much energy and so much creativity going on that you’re just drawn to them,” Chen said. “Classical music has come to a place in history that we have to think of new ways of making it interesting to other people. Sometimes, it is combining a little bit of a twist or thinking completely outside the box. They are playing the flute, the cello and the bass, and yet they are creating this new genre and these new possibilities.”

The evening’s program features Johannes Brahms’ one-movement work Hungarian Dance No. 5, followed by three performances by Project Trio both with the orchestra and on their own, including “Fast and Random Roads”—two works composed by its own members — and an unusual take on J. S. Bach’s “Bourree” from Suite in E Minor for Lute.

The second half of the program will open with Israeli composer Avner Dorman’s “Spices, Perfumes, Toxins!”

“You can’t beat that title,” Chen said. “This is a piece he collaborated with … percussionists that captured the characteristics of their culture in Isreal.”

The concert culminates with “the ultimate virtuosic piece,” Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.

“This is the ballet that put him on the musical map, if you will,” she said. “There’s so many difficult passages in this piece. It’s a wonderful piece to showcase the virtuosic aspects of the orchestra.”

Annie Alleman is a local free-lance writer.

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