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Chicago Sinfonietta ends season with Identities – two concerts featuring Jewish and Chinese music

The Chicago Sinfonietta will present Identities
The Chicago Sinfonietta will present Identities

In this controversial world, everyone is looking for something that brings people together and unites nations and countries. The Chicago Sinfonietta plays a tremendous role in achieving it. It ends the season with Identities – two final concerts that prove again that the Chicago Sinfonietta “forms unique cultural connections” and brings people together.

The first concert will take place at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 11 at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville. The second one will occur at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 12 at the Symphony Center in Chicago. Both concerts will offer the same program and promise to create unforgettable memories and touch everyone’s heart.

The public will have a unique chance to experience a musical juxtaposition between Eastern European Jews and the Chinese. A long time ago, they were Silk Road-connected cultures; our days, they are connected by music.

The first part of the concert will open with two short works of award-winning Russian-born composer Ilya Levinson – Shtetl Scenes. Listening to it, you will be able to recognize sensitive melodies that feature his Jewish heritage. Shtetl Scenes were originally written for piano, but for this performance they were arranged for orchestra. Levinson created this music based on memories of his early life in the Soviet Union.

The performance will continue with the world premiere of Levinson’s Klezmer Rhapsody for Klezmer Band and Orchestra, featuring the Chicago Sinfonietta and Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. As Maestro Mei-Ann Chen said in the preview of the concert, “the orchestra and the band will take turns playing the melody or lead lines of the work, one playing over the other and then changing sides”.

Before I tell you about the second part of the concert, I would like to share my personal experience related to the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and why I will be happy to hear them again. I met these musicians at one of their performances at Cantigny Park in Wheaton a couple years ago. I didn’t know much about this band and didn’t expect to hear songs performed in my native language.

It changed my whole reality when all the sudden I heard my favorite old songs such as Ach! Odessa and The Weary Sun. These musicians performed very well and touched the most sensitive strings of my soul. I remember buying one of their CD’s and enjoying their sensitive music at home.

However, as a person who came from a country that is neighboring with China, I am also really excited to announce that the second half of the concert will feature the work called Identity: Zhongshan Zhuang, a concerto for the guzheng, a 3,800-year-old Chinese harp-like instrument and orchestra. This composition entitled the whole performance and became an inspiration for the entire concert.

This masterpiece was created by American composer Michael Gordon Shapiro and Chinese producer-composer Victor Cheng. It features internationally-renowned guzheng soloist Su Chang who will travel all the way from China to perform with The Chicago Sinfonietta.

The work Identity combines both Western and Eastern musical traditions and cultures. It is considered to be “accessible to global audiences”. As Maestro Mei‐Ann Chen noticed, “music has become truly global in nature and this work is a great example of this ongoing trend.”  

The concert will close with a performance of George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody Number 1. As the organizers of the event believe, it will be “an appropriate accompaniment to Levinson’s Klezmer Rhapsody”.  Maestro Mei-Ann Chen even recommended to “listen carefully, because you will hear similar melodies and rhythms in both works”. 

While writing this article, I caught myself thinking that it would be very nice to live in a world where nationality is determined not by the skin color, native language or facial features, but by the person’s passion and main interests in life. Then there would be a nationality called “musician”. Unfortunately, there is no such a nationality, but The Chicago Sinfonietta makes us feel one large and friendly multicultural family.

Tickets for this beautiful event can be purchased by calling the Chicago Sinfonietta at 312-236-3681, extension 2 or online at ChicagoSinfonietta.org.

Natalia Dagenhart Copyright


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