The flexible and adventurous chamber troupe Fulcrum Point does its best to keep up with the times–its slogan is “Where classical music meets popular culture.” And in fact the timing of the group’s current project–a three-concert survey of music written in response to the oppression of post-Mao China, Stalin’s Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany–couldn’t be more appropriate. Shostakovich’s String Quartet no. 8 is a fitting centerpiece for this Tuesday’s Russian concert, as perhaps no 20th-century composer was as aware of the challenges of coping with the shifting ideological winds of a totalitarian regime. He developed during the Stalin era the trick of couching self-expressive passages and subversive digs at the state within an officially acceptable style of composition; this ferocious, despairing quartet, written in 1960, registers as an act of defiance in the face of fascism. Fulcrum Point will play it in a brass arrangement, giving leader Stephen Burns a chance to show off his trumpet skills. Galina Ustvolskaya, whose Symphony no. 4 will be given a rare performance on the same program, studied with Shostakovich in the late 40s. Written in the mid-80s, the piece is deceptively named: it’s only ten minutes long and consists of just one movement for four performers. Sofia Gubaidulina is of a later generation, but she also grew up under Soviet scrutiny. Fulcrum Point will perform two characteristic works–“Song Without Words” and “Two Ballads,” which incorporate instruments and melodies from the Caucasus and east Asia. Lera Auerbach is a relative unknown, a pianist-composer who’s not yet 30. Her “Songs of Rebirth,” “We Cannot Remember Them,” and “October Song” will be given their local debuts here; the vocalist is the ubiquitous mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley. Preceding the concert at 5 PM is a guided tour of the Art Institute’s modern Russian collection. Tuesday, March 18, 7:30 PM, ballroom, School of the Art Institute, 112 S. Michigan; 773-722-5463.

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