Chicago Phil Chamber Presents IN THE REALM OF SENSES PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION Review — Five Senses Brunch

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We’re given a small plate of modest artisanal desserts as we walk in the door. At our respective tables, we buzz with familiarity and excitement for the treat to come. The doors close, the lights dim, purple stage lights fill the space. We are greeted by musician and creator Jeff Yang. This is an IN THE REALM OF SENSES performance that is part of the Chicago Philharmonic brunch series at City Winery.

Fulton Market’s City Winery is our host for classical music and much more. Here, all five of our senses, not just one, are teased and pleased in a one-hour multi-sensory experience. Before the performance begins, Yang advises that we are not here to ruminate on just one aspect of our surroundings, but the many. Art, music, gastronomy, crafted scents, and more are at the tips of our fingers and tongues.


In The Realm of Senses stirs more than a tapping foot

After a brief oral history to both the series and the pieces we are about to hear, Yang graciously leads us by saying, “We’ll take you back to the year 1922,” referencing Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, which was performed by Yang (violin) and Matthew Agnew (cello). Here, the enchanting combination of animated lithographs and classical music enhance one another.

As the music picks up speed, or changes its tone—quick to quiet, upbeat to somber—the animation follows. This is most notable, at one point, when the music becomes more hollow and the animated figures on the projector screens turn into merely outlines of their once fleshed out selves. But animations were not the only visual cues, as each musician on stage threw themselves into the piece so wholly that they were, in this writer’s opinion, an equally animated show themselves.

The second of the performances, Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, is brought to us by pianist Lyudmila Lakisova and Yang, who here plays violin, viola, cello, and baroque recorder interchangeably. At this juncture, the desserts we have been patiently waiting to consume come into the mix.

We are instructed to first eat the violet-cashew cheesecake bite topped with dried raspberries.   At the same time an animation of a fence splashed with greens and purples passes on either side of the stage via lithograph—a tip of the hat to the music’s inspiration, a garden in Paris.

Next, the dark chocolate truffle, which had a filling laced with chili, hits our taste buds hot and fast, just as the music mimics those same actions, increasing in both intensity and pace.

Both morsels, in the reviewer’s opinion, were scrumptious—only made better by the purpose they served, which was to accompany the visual and auditory aids coming to us at that time. 

Everything we experience had been hand selected and sewn together to artistic cohesion. Heads around the room sat still and in attention throughout the entirety of the performances, resisting any urge to miss a beat, a cue, or a tug at our senses. We had been dared to indulge in our senses for pleasure, and to be intimate with them—if only for a spell.

For those who find comfort in classics and revel in all things that tickle your artistic bone, the IN THE REALM OF SENSES series is certainly for you.


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Title: In The Realm of Senses Pictures at an Exhibition

Created by: Jeff Yang

Featured Musicians:

Jeff Yang (violin, viola, cello, baroque recorder)

Matthew Agnew (cello)

Lyudmila Lakisova (piano)

Creative Team:

Galina Shevchenko (video art)

Maja Bosen (stage art)

John Gaudette (lithographs)

Christophe Laudamiel (scent sculpture)


April 26, 2020

12 p.m.


City Winery
1200 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL


$25 for general admission

$45 for admission + brunch buffet

For full price tickets and information, go to City Winery's website, and visit this webpage about the Chicago Phil Chamber series.**

For more information also visit In The Realm of Senses website.



Sunday, March 22: Strings, Syrah, & Sisterhood Celebrating Women’s History Month
This concert held in honor of Women’s History Month will feature works written by a diverse group of living, female composers performed by an all-women Chicago Philharmonic Chamber ensemble. This concert honors the contributions of women throughout history and contemporary society, as well as celebrates the pioneers who paved the way for American women composers. Some of these include: Jesse Montgomery (b.1981), Caroline Shaw (b.1982), and Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972). Each piece represents the music of a variety of world cultures and explores themes of world music, folk music, and the traditions of Western classical music in a fresh and accessible way.

Sunday, April 26: Na Zdraví! To Winds and Wine
The Chicago Philharmonic Chamber players celebrate the history and future of Chicago’s Czech culture with the Chicago premiere of composer Jacob Beranek’s “Wind Quintet.” This performance also includes a rare chance to hear from the composer in person as Beranek, a 20-year-old Czech-American prodigy composer, will introduce the concert. Plus, the Chamber Players treat audiences to Sir Malcolm Arnold’s “Three Shanties,” including a surprisingly spritely version of “What Should We Do With a Drunken Sailor?” Rounding out the program is “Wind Quintet No. 2” by the Czech father of the woodwind quintet, Anton Reicha.


Photos by Marc Perlish Photography


photo by Mike Rundle

About the Author:

Margaret Smith is a writer, editor, and critic achieving her B.A. from Columbia College Chicago. Having migrated from small-town Illinois, she now dwells in Chicago with a curious eye for art and a penchant for commentary. When not putting pen to paper, you might catch her about the city sipping coffee and filling in crossword puzzles.

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