The classical world is filled with performers who pay lip service to the promotion of contemporary music, but not all of them have the conviction and talent to do the material justice. One who does is Gidon Kremer, an eclectic-minded, Latvian-born violinist who can make Alessandro Scarlatti sound just as fresh and relevant as Astor Piazzolla. Quite early in his career Kremer, now 50, passed the virtuoso test with adroit, astute interpretations of concerto and chamber standards–as might be expected of a prize pupil of the Russian great, David Oistrakh, at the Moscow Conservatory–but it’s his tireless, insightful championship of new compositions that distinguishes him in a crowded field. In particular, over the last two decades, at his summer festival in the Austrian hamlet of Lockenhaus and elsewhere, Kremer has helped raise Western awareness of composers from the Eastern bloc. With equal ease he grasps the austere foreboding of Sofia Gubaidulina, the sardonic theatricality of Alfred Schnittke, and the neomedieval posturing of Arvo Part; all three fellow former Soviet dissidents now live and work in Germany, and their works for Kremer constitute a cornerstone of the postwar repertoire. In three Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts this weekend, Kremer is assigned his favorite task–giving the first performances of a brand-new work. Commissioned by the CSO and dedicated to the soloist, the Violin Concerto by German experimentalist Aribert Reimann is, according to the composer’s description, an expressionist minidrama in four sections. Known best for his operas and songs–especially his song cycles for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau–Reimann liberally mixes polyphony and tone clusters, suggesting restlessness just beneath an orderly surface; this work should be right up Kremer’s alley. Daniel Barenboim conducts. Also included on the Friday and Saturday program are Mozart’s Symphony no. 41 (Jupiter) and Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, with Barenboim on piano and Placido Domingo on the podium. Mahler’s Fifth Symphony takes up the second half of the Tuesday concert. Friday, 1:30 PM, Saturday, 8 PM, and Tuesday, 7:30 PM, Medinah Temple, 600 N. Wabash; 312-294-3000. Ted Shen
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Gidon Kremer by Klaus Rudolph.