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Jazz and blues–the two genuine American contributions to music–have sparked the imagination of many of this century’s classical composers; yet a great majority of their works offer only pale imitation. Not so Street Music by Chicagoan William Russo. The half-hour piece (in four high-voltage movements)–written in 1976 especially for Corky Siegel, the San Francisco Symphony, and its maestro Seiji Ozawa–achieves freewheeling fusion. The orchestra is used as a more versatile, riotous band: it heightens the funk and feistiness of the best blues. Unusual too is the casting of the harmonica in the starring role (even more unusual is the sight of Siegel gyrating to his own beat on the concert stage). A revelation back in the 70s, Street Music remains Russo’s most memorable composition to date. (The recording with Siegel and the SF Symphony, incidentally, nabbed a Grand Prix du Disc.) Astonishingly, this Symphony of the Shores concert will be its first Chicago performance. A youthful ensemble in its inaugural season, staffed mostly with alumni of the Civic Orchestra, SOS is seeking to carve out a niche as a bridge between pop and classical (it collaborated with the Marcel Duchamp Memorial Players in an earlier concert); Street Music should provide an ideal vehicle. Rounding out the program are two more conventional works: the overture to Rossini’s Il signor Bruschino and Richard Strauss’s slyly ironic Le bourgeois gentilhomme suite. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 Sheridan, Evanston; 708-869-3133.

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