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Hear ye, hear ye! Recorded live at Orchestra Hall, CSO musicians soon to be in ‘Sessions’

Submitted by on Sep 19, 2020 – 2:18 pm

Chicago Symphony associate concertmaster Stephanie Joeng and assistant principal cellist Kenneth Olsen played Brahms’ Double Concerto with the orchestra last season. (Anne Ryan)

Report: After long pandemic silence, Chicago Symphony to launch new online chamber music video series CSO Sessions on Oct. 1.
By Lawrence B. Johnson

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will begin a measured return to live performance Oct. 1 when small groups of musicians commence a series of weekly online chamber concerts from Orchestra Hall under the banner CSO Sessions.

Members of the Chicago Symphony arrayed in sextets, octets and other intimate ensembles will blaze a return path toward larger-scaled concerts to be announced in October, according to a CSO spokesperson.

Tuba player Gene Pokorny brings his big instrument to the new chamber music series. (Todd Rosenberg)

The new digital series of on-demand, high-definition video recordings of chamber music – and later chamber orchestra – concerts will feature performances filmed in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center. Programs for the CSO Sessions series were developed with artistic guidance from music director Riccardo Muti.

The series premiere on Thursday, Oct. 1, becomes available at 12 a.m. Central time and marks the official opening of the 2020-21 season, the orchestra’s 130th. The five inaugural episodes will premiere on consecutive Thursdays in October. Additional episodes of CSO Sessions will be released through the end of the year.

Many of the fall 2020 programs will be available via CSOtv, the newly launched video portal for both free and premium on-demand videos. Besides the CSO Sessions series, CSOtv offers access to CSO for Kids educational videos, archival videos featuring concerts performed by the Orchestra and more.

New programs featuring Symphony Center Presents guest artists are also expected to come online in this fall, with details to be announced. Rounding out the CSO’s fall presentation are two different weekly radio broadcast series and the new InterMISSION at the CSO podcast, which premieres Sept. 21.

Individual episodes of CSO Sessions will be available for $15, with a 20% discount for patrons who purchase a bundle of three or more episodes. New episodes of CSO Sessions will be available for on-demand streaming for 30 days after each premiere. For details, go to cso.org/tv.

Audiences can watch CSOtv videos on desktop computers, tablets, or mobile phones, with additional options to cast to a compatible TV from a preferred device. Additional information for CSO patrons about viewing and purchasing premium CSOtv videos is available at cso.org/tv.

CSO concertmaster Robert Chen will join his colleagues in the October concerts. (Todd Rosenberg)

Here’s an overview of the first wave of concerts in the CSO Sessions series.

Oct. 1: Works by Gershwin, Piazzolla, Villa-Lobos, Pierre Gabaye and Nielsen. A homecoming to the Orchestra Hall stage for CSO musicians, the program open with the orchestra’s principal wind players – William Welter (oboe), Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson (flute), Stephen Williamson (clarinet), Keith Buncke (bassoon) and David Cooper (horn) – in 20th-century works written or arranged for wind quintet. Also featured are flutist-piccolo player Jennifer Gunn and assistant principal bassoon William Buchman.

Oct 8: Works by Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Wind and string chamber ensembles are featured in a program that opens with Mozart’s Serenade No. 11, written for a wind octet of doubled oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns and featuring CSO principal and section wind players. Tchaikovsky’s string sextet “Souvenir de Florence” spotlights concertmaster Robert Chen and associate concertmaster Stephanie Jeong along with principal cello John Sharp, assistant principal cello Kenneth Olsen and violists Lawrence Neuman and Wei-Ting Kuo.

Percussionist Cynthia Yeh plays a duo with cello. (Todd Rosenberg)

Oct. 15: Works by  Stravinsky, Saint-Georges and Dvořák. A concert of chamber music from three different musical eras opens with Igor Stravinsky’s neoclassical Octet scored for winds, strings and brass and featuring principal flute Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson and principal trombone Jay Friedman in addition to assistant principal clarinet John Bruce Yeh, assistant principal bassoon William Buchman, bassoonist Miles Maner, assistant principal trumpet Mark Ridenour, trumpeter John Hagstrom and bass trombonist CharlesVernon.

Violin Sonata No. 3 by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a popular figure in 18th-Century Paris, brings together violinist-brothers Simon and Matous Michal. The program concludes with Dvořák’s Sextet for Strings performed by CSO the brothers Michal, violists Catherine Brubaker and Weijing Wang and cellists Richard Hirschl and Karen Basrak.

Oct. 22: Works by Mozart, Brahms and Caroline Shaw. String quintets of Mozart and Brahms bookend this program, which also includes American composer Caroline Shaw’s “Boris Kerner” for cello and percussion.  Assembled for Mozart are violinist-sisters Qing and Lei Hou, violists Catherine Brubaker and Lawrence Neuman and cellist Karen Basrak. The Brahms is played by violinists Rong-Yan Tang and Kozue Funakoshi, acting principal viola Li-Kuo Chang, violist Youming Chen and cello Daniel Katz. Shaw novel duo features assistant principal cello Kenneth Olsen and principal percussion Cynthia Yeh.

Oct. 29: Episode 5: Works by Rossini, Prokofiev and Ingolf Dahl. This varied program offers a string sonata written by the 12-year-old Rossini, music for brass by the 20th-century Dahl and an arrangement of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” Suite for wind ensemble.

CSO musicians featured in this episode include principal second violin Baird Dodge and violinist Susan Synnestvedt, cellist Richard Hirschl), bassost Daniel Armstrong, principal horn David Cooper and assistant principal trumpet Mark Ridenour

They are joined by trumpeter John Hagstrom, trombonist Michael Mulcahy, bass trombonist Charles Vernon, principal tuba Gene Pokorny,  principal oboe William elter, English horn player Scott Hostetler, assistant principal clarinet John Bruce Yeh, bassoonist Miles Maner, horn players David Griffin and Oto Carrillo and guest clarinetist Teresa Reilly.