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Alban Berg Quartet

Since its debut in 1971, the Alban Berg Quartett has been a compelling exponent of the works of both the classical and 12-note Vienna schools; its recording of the complete quartets of Beethoven, Berg, and Anton Webern rival those of the Julliard and the LaSalle. The foursome’s playing is intense, but clear and exquisite enough […]

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Before Violins

ORPHEUS BAND Bond Chapel January 11 The viols, the dominant instruments in Renaissance and Baroque Europe, nearly became extinct in the early 19th century, replaced decisively by the violin family. Why? The recent season opener of the Orpheus Band, local specialist in Baroque string and vocal music, offered some tantalizing clues. The viola da gamba–a […]

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Records

AIN’T IT NICE Willie Kent Delmark DD-653 Bassist Willie Kent is a genial, powerfully built west-side bluesman whose music reflects his personality: no-nonsense, sober minded, and unpretentious. He’s held down weekend gigs for years at neighborhood venues like the Majestic on Pulaski and Mr. Tee’s on Lake; in recent years he’s become increasingly well-known in […]

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Records

JOHNNY SHINES Johnny Shines Hightone #8028 BACK TO THE COUNTRY Johnny Shines and Snooky Pryor Blind Pig #74391 Singer-guitarist Johnny Shines is best known for his Chicago recordings on Chess and J.O.B. in the early 50s. Those sides established him as a blues artist of rare power–a forceful singer, poetic lyricist (“You said if I […]

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Rappin’ up the wrong tree

On the wide spectrum of rap–from the bubblegum of Vanilla Ice and M.C. Hammer to the bleak, unfriendly visions of the Geto Boys and N.W.A.–L.L. Cool J has staked himself out a comfortable spot right in the middle. Safely street but just as safely unpolitical, musically diverse but never outre, he trades on an easy, […]

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International Exchange

LANDSCAPES OF THE MIND at Fullerton Hall, Art Institute November 17 Before last month Joan Tower, one of our country’s leading composers, didn’t know anything about the work of Ada Gentile, one of her Italian counterparts. Given the increasing insularity of communities of composers, new-music venues now tend to serve as exclusive outlets for musical […]

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All Together Now

ENSEMBLE D’ACCORD at the Academy of Movement and Music November 10 One of the great pleasures of chamber music lies in tracking the progress of a group of musicians from the stage of “Hey, let’s put on a recital!” to complete confidence in themselves. In the past two seasons the members of Ensemble d’Accord have […]

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Bruce Cockburn looking for a light

With the country’s economic and social fabric seeming to deteriorate more and more each day, it’s easy to see why so many musicians write songs about despair. It’s difficult to find concrete reasons for hope, and it’s harder still to make a positive statement without sounding insipid and naive. What made Bruce Cockburn’s recent appearance […]

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String Survivors

CHICAGO STRING ENSEMBLE at Saint Paul’s Church November 15 Fifteen years ago the Chicago String Ensemble–12 violinists, 4 violists, 4 cellists, and 2 bassists–opened shop as the midwest’s only professional all-string orchestra. Now, several ups and downs later, the group is marking its 15th anniversary. The CSE is a hardy survivor. For a brief spell […]

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Bringing Back Barber

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA at Orchestra Hall October 26 and November 3 Samuel Barber had the misfortune to peak early. In 1933, when he was barely 23 and fresh out of the Curtis Institute, the Philadelphia Orchestra introduced his very first orchestral score. Other premieres and honors soon followed, including a prestigious Prix de Rome that […]