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Mei-Ann Chen / Chicago Sinfonietta / Harlem Quartet Delights & Dances

This quartet of contemporary works from Chicago's Cedille label is distinguished by the presence of the unusual combination of string quartet and orchestra in three of them. The combination is handled differently in each of the three works, making for a kaleidoscopic variety of textures despite the common medium. (A brief interlude, An-Lun Huang's Saibei Dance, does not feature the string quartet and adds little to the program.) The nicest find, perhaps, is the West Side Story Concerto for string quartet and orchestra, arranged by Randall Craig Fleischer from Leonard Bernstein's famed musical. The famous tunes are there in the work's ten short movements, but the diverse handling of the string quartet, which steps into the lyric roles and then backs off to provide figuration behind small orchestral groups, justifies the use of the term concerto rather than something like suite. It's a very unusual classical setting of a popular work.Michael Abels' titular Delights & Dances for string quartet and string orchestra suggests an English pastoral work transferred to America and imbued with African-American blues as well as more conventional Copland-esque hoedown music, while Benjamin Lees' Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra is a more rhythmically abstract piece built systematically on the contrast between string quartet and orchestra, which are united at the end. A worthwhile exploration of the configuration that grew from the old Baroque concerto grosso.

James Manheim,
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