More than any American composer since Leonard Bernstein, John Corigliano has an uncanny feel for the popular pulse. Proficient in a wide range of idioms, he responds to the nation’s shifts in mood rather than adhere to an orthodoxy. As if answering the prayers of concertgoers frustrated with atonal music, he’s written sonatas, quartets, and concertos in an updated Romantic style; his only opera, The Ghosts of Versailles, acknowledges postmodernism in its clever, self-referential pastiche, but never degenerates into an ironic joke. His angry, poignant Symphony no. 1, completed in 1990, was the first large work by a major composer to make a statement on the AIDS crisis, and his score for the globe-trotting 1998 film The Red Violin tapped into the public’s growing fascination with world music. “Irreverences,” the program Corigliano has designed for the Chicago Chamber Musicians’ “Composer Perspectives” series, is intended as an antidote to the solemn or doctrinaire–he asserts that an important goal of classical music should be “the pleasure and stimulation of the players as well as the listeners.” The four pieces he’s selected–the oldest of which was debuted 17 years ago–all partake of a broader trend toward pluralism and the embrace of pop-cultural material. David Del Tredici’s Dracula, scored for soprano and ensemble, tells the story of a woman who lives next door to the vampire; Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan, for soprano and piano, sets Dylan’s lyrics to music that doesn’t bear a trace of the original melodies. (The singer in both pieces will be Hila Plitmann.) William Bolcom’s Orphee-Serenade pays homage to 20th-century French composer Darius Milhaud as well as to a variety of late-18th-century musical forms, and Paul Schoenfield’s piano trio Cafe Music incorporates operetta, Gypsy songs, and Broadway tunes. The CCM, whose lineup consists of Chicago Symphony Orchestra members and first-rate area freelancers, will be joined for this concert by several guests, including flutist Mary Stolper and bassoonist Lewis Kirk. Del Tredici will conduct the two ensemble pieces, Dracula and Orphee-Serenade; Corigliano will lead a preconcert talk at 6:30. Monday, May 20, 7:30 PM, theater, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago; 312-397-4010.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Christian Steiner.