Ned Rorem was born in Indiana 65 years ago, the son of a University of Chicago business professor. While growing up in Hyde Park, he studied composition with Leo Sowerby; later, in New York, he was Virgil Thomson’s copyist. During the 50s, he settled in Paris and emerged a golden boy among expatriates, embraced by the cafe society and hobnobbing with the likes of Jean Cocteau and Darius Milhaud. (His adventures there have been chronicled with utmost frankness in a series of published diaries.) In his spare time, under the tutelage of composer Francis Poulenc, he matured into a master of the art song. A resident of New York since 1958, Rorem has continued to compose at a steady pace; his instrumental pieces, though not on the same artistic plane as his song cycles, reflect the spare elegance and broodiness that are his trademark. The Violin Concerto, premiered in 1985, is the centerpiece in this Civic Orchestra birthday tribute to Rorem; the soloist is the estimable Gidon Kremer. An ensemble usually much better than its identification as the Chicago Symphony’s training orchestra might suggest, the Civic will play under the baton of the CSO’s assistant conductor Michael Morgan, a young man with a flair for energizing old war-horses like two of the other works on the program–Dvorak’s Symphony no. 9 (aka From the New World) and the prelude to act one of Wagner’s Lobengrin. Tonight, 8 PM, and Saturday, 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-8159 or 435-6666.

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