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This one sizzles with Chicago synergy. The marvelous Civitas Ensemble played Live from WFMT on Monday. They pulled out a piece deeply rooted in the Windy City: “Air and Simple Gifts” by film composer John Williams (Star Wars, E.T., Jaws), a piece written for the 2008 inauguration of Chicago’s first president, Barack Obama.
The Chicago Symphony-based Civitas Ensemble is no stranger to Williams, who has conducted the orchestra for decades. Most recently John Williams, Stephen Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis were smuggled into Symphony Center (the musicians had to sign non-disclosure agreements) to record the soundtrack to the Academy Award-winning film Lincoln.
Civitas is headed by CSO Assistant Concertmaster Yuan-Qing Yu, a marvelous chamber player. She’s joined here by J. Lawrie Bloom, Kenneth Ohlson and Winston Choi.
At the 2008 presidential inauguration, “Air and Simple Gifts” was premiered by longtime friends of the CSO: Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma. Chicago native Anthony McGill played the clarinet for that premiere, along with pianist Gabriela Montero.