Does Canadian music have an identity of its own? Or is it just an undistinguished, far-flung branch of American music? To be frank, what little I’ve heard by members of the tiny community of Canadian composers has not made any long-lasting impression. Maybe that’s why I’m looking forward to Chicago Sinfonietta’s Salute to Canada!–to see if two recent examples of Canadian music are of more than passing interest. Malcolm Forsyth’s Sun Songs for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra (1985), with texts drawn from novelist Doris Lessing’s atavistic fantasy Briefing for a Descent Into Hell, is a song cycle that celebrates the sun as a source of brilliance, brutality, and spirituality; its author was named Canadian composer of the year in 1989. In Harry Somers’s Picasso Suite, condensed from the score he wrote for the 1964 Albert Finney vehicle Picasso Summer, some of the artist’s canvases and stylistic periods are parodied and others are eulogized; the section titled “Paris, 1900–A Snapshot” is a bouncy ragtime, and “Cubism” is done in Schoenbergian twelve-tone. The performance of the suite will be illustrated- -with slides compiled by Werner Herterich, a German filmmaker in residence at the School of the Art Institute. The remainder of the hefty program consists of Weber’s Jubilee Overture, Falla’s fiery El amor brujo, and Piano Concerto no. 1 by Liszt, one of the most unabashedly ebullient (and technically tricky) pieces ever written for the piano. Conducting the fine (and ethnically diverse) players of the Sinfonietta is Paul Freeman, whose affiliations with Canadian orchestras span decades. The soloists are pianist Janina Fialkowska and mezzo Sandra Graham, both of whom are–you guessed it–Canadian. Sunday, 2:30 PM, fine arts auditorium, Rosary College, 7900 Division, River Forest. Monday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan. 708-366-1062.

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