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The New Music Consort is one of a handful of persuasive advocates of contemporary chamber music. Since the early 70s this New York-based collective has introduced (and rediscovered) a string of significant works from myriad currents and countries. A key to its success, I think, lies in the players’ delightful performances of what can often be dull intellectual exercises. In its Chicago debut the consort will present a pair of concerts highlighting postwar American music. This first program puts the spotlight on a quintet of emerging women composers. Of particular interest are Extremes, a fulte-cello duo by Barbara Kolb that evocatively uses rhythmic and tonal opposites, and Spring Sonata, by the gifted Russian Elena Firsova, noted for its sprightly sense of hope and bliss. Also included are recent works by under-40 composers Marilyn Bliss, Briton Judith Weir, and Macao-born Bun-Ching Lam. Preceding the concert will be a lecture-recital providing a historical perspective on women composers hosted by Tania Leon, long affiliated with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Leon’s teasingly rhythmic tour de force for percussion and piano, A la Par, is one of five pieces to be performed; other composers represented will include Lili Boulanger and Alma Mahler. Soloists for the 6 PM recital are mezzo Bonita Hyman and percussion wiz Dane Richeson. The New Music Consort’s Friday-night program showcases Pulitzer Prize winners. Thursday and next Friday, August 30, 7:30 PM, Bennett Hall, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 728-4642.