The CSO with the Joffrey Ballet Review – Come for the Music, Enjoy the Ballet

Artists of The Joffrey Ballet applaud the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conductor Matthias Pintscher following the performance of Commedia by choreographer Christopher Wheeler on May 30, 2019
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How could I resist seeing some of the best that Chicago offers on May 30thwhen the first-ever collaboration of the CSO and The Joffrey Ballet, under the leadership of The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater took place? The program continued, Friday, May 31, at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 1, at 8:00 p.m. at Symphony Center. Conductor Matthias Pintscher, Music Director of the Ensemble intercontemporain, (a world world-renowned ensemble founded by Pierre Boulez in 1972), offered an engaging smile and noteworthy energy as he brought forth exquisite sounds in each of the pieces that were played, and especially the two works that were enhanced by the dances performed by the Joffrey Ballet dancers. The Joffrey Ballet’s piece by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, Commedia, set to Stravinsky’s Suite from Pulcinella and the world premiere of the Joffrey-commissioned Bliss!, from Chicago choreographer Stephanie Martinez, set to Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto were danced with skill and beauty.

Matthias Pintscher conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mother Goose by Ravel © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

For the first half of the concert, the orchestra was in its usual place for a lively beginning with Rossini’s Overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) followed by Ravel’s Mother Goose. Though originally composed as a set of short piano duets, Ravel later expanded the work to a colorful suite for orchestra.  The sounds were unusual and created the feeling of a fairy tale world in segments about Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb and Beauty and the Beast among others. Lovely bird sounds emanated from the flute, while other instruments created the sounds of woods and waterfalls, musical magic.

Creating the exquisite music were these talented and skilled musicians: CSO second flute Emma Gerstein is playing principal flute on all pieces in the program.CSO Assistant Principal Clarinet John Bruce Yeh is playing principal clarinet on all pieces in the program. CSO Acting Principal Horn Daniel Gingrich is playing principal horn on the Rossini Overture and Ravel’s Mother Goose

Guest principal horn David Cooper, who is principal horn of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, was featured in Ravel’s Pavane and the two Stravinsky pieces. Guest principal trumpet Micah Wilkinson, who is principal trumpet of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, was featured in the Rossini Overture and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, CSO Bass Trombone Charles Vernon was playing principal trombone on the Rossini Overture and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella.

Principal Bassoon Keith Buncke was performing all pieces on the program. 
Principal Oboe William Welter performed all pieces on the program with the exception of Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, which does not utilize oboes.

Joffrey Artists Edson Barbosa, Evan Boersma, Yumi Kanazawa and Stefan Goncalvez with Chicago Symphony Orchestra in world premiere of Bliss!set to Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto on May 30, 2019. © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

The stage was prepared for the dancers, the floor cleaned and the orchestra moved to the back of the stage and to a raised space. The CSO was then joined by the Joffrey Ballet who performed the world premiere of Bliss! by choreographer Stephanie Martinez. Her work was featured in the Joffrey’s 2015 Winning Works competition. For Bliss!, she drew upon the music of Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto as the primary source of inspiration citing “contrasting sections of reflection and exuberance” as the propulsive force behind her choreography. The work’s title and narrative structure refer to Mildred and Robert Bliss who were distinguished art collectors and philanthropists. They commissioned Stravinsky to write the Dumbarton Oaks concerto for their 30th wedding anniversary. 

A bare stage with the orchestra as the back drop, simple costumes and gorgeous music, brought the movement into focus and enhanced the beauty of the music.  This was an exquisite pairing.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Matthias Pintscher conductor The Joffrey Ballet Ashley Wheater The Mary Joffrey Artist Evan Boersma, choreographer Stephanie Martinez, and Joffrey Artist Xavier Núñez bow following world premiere of Bliss! with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on May 30, 2019

Ravel’s achingly beautiful Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) bridged the two Stravinsky pieces.  The blend of sounds was perfection.

Stravinsky’s Suite from Pulcinella, featuring an original ballet by Christopher Wheeldon titled Commedia, completed the program. A product of Stravinsky’s long-standing professional relationship with ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes, Pulcinella is one of the most genial and charming of Stravinsky’s ballet works.  Wheeldon’s Commedia is an abstraction on both the ballet by Stravinsky and Diaghilev and on the commedia dell’arte form, and premiered by Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company in September 2008 at Sadler’s Wells in London.

Joffrey Artists Edson Barbosa and Anais Bueno in world premiere of Bliss! with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on May 30, 2019 © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

The vibrant colors of the costumes brightened the stage, once again stark with no lighting, sets or curtain. The Harlequin costumes took over and the movements of the dance set perfectly to the music creating a dramatic, beautiful and memorable experience the audience loved.

Photo Credit Todd Rosenberg Photography.

 Chicago Symphony OrchestraThursday, May 30, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Friday, May 31, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 1, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Matthias Pintscher,  conductor
The Joffrey Ballet
Ashley WheaterThe Mary B. Galvin Artistic DirectorROSSINI          Overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia
RAVEL              Mother Goose
STRAVINSKY   Dumbarton Oaks Concerto
                         Bliss! (World Premiere Commission)
                         by Stephanie Martinez
RAVEL              Pavane pour une infant défunte
STRAVINSKY   Suite from Pulcinella
                          Commedia© by Christopher WheeldonTickets: $37-$252


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