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The Orion Ensemble

May 17, 2023 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

To conclude its 30th anniversary season, The Orion Ensemble expands its instrumental lineup and welcomes five exceptional guest musicians for a “Schubertiad,” celebrating the work of Franz Schubert (1797–1828). Performances take place at three venues: New England Congregational Church in Aurora (May 14), PianoForte Studios in Chicago (May 17) and Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston (May 21). The Chicago and Evanston performances also will be available via livestream.

The program includes Schubert’s Octet in F Major for two violins, viola, cello, bass, clarinet, bassoon and French horn. This work, originally commissioned by Austrian philanthropist and amateur clarinetist Ferdinand Troyer, is in six movements and features elegance, luminous expression and profound originality. The first movement brims with lyrical energy, while the second features lilting strings and a clarinet theme akin to Mozart. The third movement brings unbridled, rustic joy. The fourth movement is a charming set of variations, the fifth an elegant and sweetly lyrical minuet, and the finale a grand symphonic venture in miniature.

Joining Orion musicians Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Judy Stone (cello) and Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet) for the Octet are Mathias Tacke (violin), previously second violinist of the Vermeer Quartet; frequent Orion guest artist and chamber musician Stephen Boe (viola); Robert Kassinger (bass) of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Andrei Muravev (bassoon) of the Chicago Sinfonietta; and Gregory Flint (horn), principal with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. (Bios available upon request.

The program also features Orion pianist Diana Schmück performing several Schubert songs, or lieder, transcribed by Franz Liszt. Composing more than 500 songs, Schubert expanded the horizons of this intimate vocal artistry, increasing the piano’s role from accompanist to equal partner with the vocalist and evoking imagery through harmonies, counter themes and colorful rhythms to bring the art song to new heights of expression. Liszt’s magnificent piano transcriptions bring to Schubert’s delicate songs the immense virtuosity Liszt is known for, taking Schubert’s intoxicating vocal creations to the realms of keyboard brilliance.

The livestreams from Chicago and Evanston will be available free (donations are welcome at orionensemble.org/donate) on Orion’s YouTube channel, which will also host a recording of the performance for a limited time.


The Orion Ensemble

The Orion Ensemble started 30 years ago when a trio of young artists who were passionate about chamber music decided to present a concert of chamber works for violin, clarinet and piano—an unusual combination at the time. Shortly afterward, the trio added cello and viola, and the possibilities became endless. Since then, they have become a landmark in Chicago’s rich cultural life, reaching listeners throughout the U.S. and Europe. They have collaborated with some of the world’s most acclaimed artists, including Dale Clevenger, Alex Klein, Michel Debost, Ian Maksin, Julia Bentley, Stephen Boe, Mathias Tacke, Patrice Michaels, Julian Gray, Kuang-Hao Huang and many more. The ensemble has also expanded the repertoire for this instrumentation, premiering dozens of works written for them by composers such as Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Kritz, Sebastian Huydts, Justinian Tamusuza, Jackson Berkey, Ilya Levinson, James Wintle, Miguel de la Cerna and many others.

Winner of the prestigious Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming for its critically acclaimed millennium celebration “An Inside Look at Contemporary Music,” Orion features a roster of four acclaimed musicians—Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin), Diana Schmück (piano) and Judy Stone (cello)—who have performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia, as an ensemble and individually in solo, orchestral and other chamber music roles. The Chicago Tribune called Orion “one of Chicago’s most vibrant, versatile and distinctive ensembles,” and the Chicago Sun-Times said Orion is “what chamber music should be all about: Individual virtuosity melded into a group personality.” The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund and generous donations from its patrons. For a brief history, click here.


May 17, 2023
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm


PianoForte Studios
1335 South Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60605 United States
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(312) 291-0000
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Thomas Zoells
(312) 291-0000