Marta Ptaszynska

By Wynne Delacoma

For the first few decades of its existence, Contempo was pretty much the only game in town for high-profile, locally-produced contemporary chamber music in Chicago.

Founded in 1964 by composer Ralph Shapey at the University of Chicago, that game was fearsomely good, however. Shapey wrote fiery music that matched both his own personality and the passion he brought to programming for his ensemble, initially named the Contemporary Chamber Players. In addition to distinguished guest soloists, some of Chicago’s best musicians, including members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, appeared as CCP ensemble members.

Over the past 20 years, the city’s contemporary music scene has grown immensely. The Chicago Symphony has its own, lively contemporary chamber music series, and young local musicians are forming ensembles, among them Ensemble Dal Niente, Third Coast Percussion and eighth blackbird that are thriving on the national and international scene.

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