A little afternoon music


The Mandel Hall audience awaiting Sunday afternoon’s University of Chicago Presents concert witnessed a pre-performance premiere: Shauna Quill’s first appearance as executive director of Chicago Presents. Quill comes to Chicago with experience as an artist manager (Pavarotti was a client), administrator (Aspen Music Festival and School), and consultant (one assignment: developing classical DVDs for Berlin label EuroArts).

Her first day on the job was February 1, Quill told the audience, and the past ten days had been "a baptism by fire—but a wonderful one.” The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, in the second year of a three-year University residency, had been busy. On Thursday, Quill said, some 3,000 Chicago schoolchildren came through Mandel Hall as part of the orchestra’s CONNECT musical-outreach program. On Saturday more children—and their parents—arrived for the orchestra’s annual family concert.

Now, the lights dimmed, and the orchestra didn’t disappoint. First it offered its own premiere, its first performance of Rautavaara’s Fiddlers (1952), a suite inspired by Northern European folk fiddling (though he originally wrote it for piano).

Violinist and orchestra director Steven Copes and violist Sabina Thatcher led the group through a mesmerizing peformance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364. Shostakovich’s Chamber Sympony, Op. 73A—a 1946 piece that with its plaintive ending was denounced in Stalinist Russia—ended the program.


February 12, 2007