Every year about this time the venerable Chicago composer George Flynn celebrates his birthday with a Sunday afternoon concert at the Green Mill, and this year’s event—marking his 78th year—doubles as a celebration of a strong new album of compositions performed by some of the city’s finest players. (Flynn’s actual birthday is January 21.) In fact, all of the musicians who appear on American Forms (the latest in a superb series of albums released by Southport Records that collect the composer’s work) will be present to perform the four pieces on the album.
Flynn—a onetime Fluxus member—is that special breed of composer who comfortably reconciles tradition with new ideas. The album’s stunning opening work, “Chicago Quartet”—performed by violinist Robert Waters, violist Rami Solomonow, cellist Daniel Klinger, and pianist Amy Briggs—uses a traditional four-movement structure and relatively conventional instrumental techniques, but within that environment Flynn deftly uses motific fragments and lines that “disintegrate,” as he writes in his liner notes, to producer an utterly bracing piece of music. There are a pair of stunning solo pieces: “Forms of Flight” for clarinet, performed by Cory Tiffin, and “Forms of Friction” for viola, performed by Doyle Armbrust. Both pieces were derived from cadenza sections for each instrument originally featured in Flynn’s quartet piece, American Rest. You can hear “Forms of Friction” below.
The album concludes with a fantastic piece for string quartet called “American Enchantment” played by the Spektral Quartet (the original lineup with violinist Aurelian Pederzoli, who recently left the group and was replaced by Clara Lyon). Flynn wrote the piece as a portrait that focuses on the more gentle and meditative side of the U.S., a contrast to his many works that excoriate the country’s “violence toward peoples and nations.” The event starts at 2 PM and the $5 cover includes a slice of birthday cake.