Review: Chicago Ensemble closes season with flair

By M.L. RANTALA
Classical Music Critic

The Chicago Ensemble’s 36th Hyde Park season came to a close on the Sunday of Alumni Weekend with a pleasant afternoon concert at International House, 1414 E. 59th St., replete with champagne and many smiling faces.

The concert opened with the Trio-sonata in C Major by J.J. Quantz, performed by Susan Levitin (flute), Naomi Bensdorf Frisch (oboe), John Gaudette (bassoon) and Gerald Rizzer (piano). The music was at times breezy and full of fresh air, and there was particularly nice bounce from the bassoon. The flute was a little thin in the Largetto, but the final movement found all the players striking the right balance and creating bright colors.

Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat Major, K. 452 saw Elizandro Garcia-Montoya (clarinet) and Dan O’Connell (French horn) join Frisch, Garcia-Montoya and Rizzer for an understated performance. The middle movement had splendid sound from Frisch and while O’Connell seemed to struggle once or twice, by the end he created a memorable moment of singing quality.

Five Movements (2007) by Clint Needham had an informal air and at times seemed almost as if it was attempting to conceal a few jokes. Combining flute, oboe, French horn, bassoon and piano, the work was given good color and a light approach.

All six performers joined forces for the Sonata in B-flat Major (1962) by Gordon Jacob. Levitan was at her best here, with a perky piccolo solo in the second movement. Rizzer added his easy, light touch to the compelling melody of the Cortege movement. The composer’s slow building of intensity was nicely realized by the ensemble.

Musical Notes

Make Music Chicago returns for its third year this Friday. It features free musical performances throughout Hyde Park and the entire city. The local highlight will be performances at the Logan Center for the Arts between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Here’s the schedule:

4-4:20 p.m.: Fulcrum Point New Music Project (Mary Stolper, flute and Kuang-Hao Huang, piano) performing Aaron Jay Kernis: “Air” (1996), Joseph Schwantner: “Black Anemones” (1982), Kenji Bunch: “Velocity” (2006).

4:20-4:40 p.m.: Annie Picard, soprano and Julie Goldberg, guitar, performing: John Dowland: “Come again” (1597) and “Flow my tears” (1600), Benjamin Britten: “The shoot of his dear” (1956) and “Sailor-boy” (1958), and Dominic Argento: from “Letters from Composers” (1971) Franz Schubert and Johann Sebastian Bach.

4:40-5 p.m.: Avalon String Quartet performing Janacek’s String Quartet No. 1 “Kreutzer Sonata.”

5-5:20 p.m.: Cavatina Duo performing Toru Takemitsu: “Towards the Sea,” and Miroslav Tadic: “2 Macedonian Pieces.”

5:20-5:40 p.m.: Orion Ensemble performing Peter Schickele’s “Quartet for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano” (1982).

5:40-6 p.m.: Members of the CUBE Ensemble (Lawrence Axelrod, piano, and Caroline Pittman, flute) performing Rodolfo Halffter’s “…huésped de las nieblas…” (1982) for flute and piano, Ileana Perez Velazquez’s “Naturaleza Viva” (2013) for solo flute, Charles Argersinger’s “…between Scylla and Charybdis” (1993) for solo piano, and Mischa Zupko’s “Envy” (from “The Seven Deadly Sins”) (2002) for flute and piano.

There’s a huge amount of free music on offer at lots of locations, and in many genres, so check out the website for more information: MakeMusicChicago.com.