Brazilian guitar virtuosos Sergio and Odair Assad, Spanish guitarist Paco Pena and his fiery Flamenco Dance Company, Uruguayan guitarist Alvaro Pierri, Alabama-born alto saxophonist and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Sherman Irby and Australian violinist Graeme Jennings are among the international array performing at Northwestern University this winter. Israeli-born violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi will also visit campus to lead a chamber music master class for Bienen School students.
Presented by the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, all events are open to the public. They will take place on the University's Evanston campus at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive; Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place; Regenstein Recital Hall, 60 Arts Circle Drive; or Vail Chapel in Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Road, as noted.
• Acclaimed baroque and early music specialist Hopkinson Smith -- who has been called the most moving of present day lutenists -- will launch the winter season of guest artist events at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, in Lutkin Hall. Smith will explore the works of Bach, including his cello suites, through the voice of a German bass lute called a theorbo. One of the world's greatest lute players, Smith has recorded more than 20 solo albums on a variety of plucked instruments, and is in demand as a recitalist and educator across Europe and the Americas. He teaches at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland. The concert is part of the Segovia Classical Guitar Series. Tickets are $18 for the general public and $12 for students.
• Violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi will lead a master class for Bienen School of Music chamber music students at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, in Regenstein Recital Hall. He has toured the former Soviet Union twice and performed throughout Europe, Israel, Asia and the United States. He has collaborated with distinguished artists, including pianist Rudolf Serkin, baritone Thomas Hampson, concert pianist and conductor Murray Perahia, and pianists Peter Serkin and Menahem Pressler. As first violinist of the Vermeer Quartet, he earned a reputation as one of the world's outstanding chamber musicians. Ashkenasi has been on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music since 2007. Admission is free.
• World-renowned Uruguayan guitarist Alvaro Pierri makes his Chicago-area debut at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, in Lutkin Hall, as part of the Segovia Classical Guitar Series. Pierri will perform works by Polak Reys, including "Taniec" and "Galliard"; Paganini's Grande Sonata in A Major; works by Albéniz, including "Zortzico" and "Malaguena"; Dusan Bogdanovic's "Jazz Sonatina"; Ponce's Sonata III; and Ginastera's Sonata para guitarra, Op. 47. His approach to the guitar has inspired commissions from composers Leo Brouwer, Astor Piazzolla and Terry Riley and collaborative performances with Piazzolla, Eduardo Fernandez and the Turtle Island String Quartet. Pierri's awards include the coveted Canadian FELIX award for the best classical CD of the year and first prize in many prestigious classical guitar competitions. Tickets are $22 for the general public and $12 for students.
• Alto saxophonist Sherman Irby will conduct the Northwestern University Jazz Orchestra as well as perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. A member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Irby will join the University Jazz Orchestra for a program of his original music and arrangements of jazz classics. After joining piano legend Johnny O'Neal's quintet in 1991, Irby recorded his first two albums in New York City. He continues to perform with his own newly formed quartet, the Organomics. Tickets are $6 for the general public and $4 for students.
• The Paco Pena Flamenco Dance Company will perform the program "Flamenco Vivo" at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 1, in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, as part of the Segovia Classical Guitar Series. One of the world's leading traditional flamenco guitarists, Pena has toured the globe performing at New York's Carnegie Hall, London's Royal Albert Hall and Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. He has recorded nearly 30 albums in the past 45 years and has collaborated with musicians from an array of genres, including classical guitarist John Williams. Pena's latest program explores the realms of modern flamenco through dance, song and guitar, while capturing flamenco's traditional style. Tickets are $30 for the general public and $12 for students.
• Renowned Australian-born violinist Graeme Jennings will present a concert of music written for him by advanced Bienen School of Music composition students at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, in Vail Chapel at Alice Millar Chapel. As a member of the Arditti Quartet from 1994 to 2005, Jennings premiered more than 300 works by composers, including Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter and Gyorgy Kurtag, and recorded more than 70 albums. In addition to solo and chamber music work, he performs regularly with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Adorno Ensemble and the New Century Chamber Orchestra. Jennings is senior lecturer in violin and viola at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. The concert is presented in conjunction with Jennings' Feb. 26 to March 1 residency under the auspices of the Bienen School's Institute for New Music. Admission to this event is free.
• Clarinetist Steven Cohen will perform with the Lincoln String Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, in Lutkin Hall. The quartet is comprised of violinists Qing Hou and Lei Hou, violist Lawrence Neuman and cellist Stephen Balderston. Cohen, a Bienen School associate professor of clarinet, has performed and taught throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Since joining the Bienen faculty in 2005, he has appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Music of the Baroque and chamber groups in the Chicago area. The Lincoln String Quartet, comprised of four current and former members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performs regularly at Chicago's Symphony Center, The Art Institute and Northwestern University. His program includes Brahms' Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Joan Tower's "Turning Points": Quintet for Clarinet and Strings and Beethoven's String Quartet No. 9 in C Major. Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students.
• Vladimir Gorbach will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10, in Lutkin Hall, as part of the Segovia Classical Guitar Series. His program will include Giuliani's Rondoletto, Op. 4; Scarlatti's Sonatas K. 87, K. 27 and K. 441; Asencio's Suite "Collectici Intim"; Aguado's Andante and Rondo in A Minor; selections from Piazzolla's "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires"; and Soles' "El Mestre." Gorbach has appeared as a soloist and with ensembles at festivals in North and South America, Europe, Australia and his native Russia. He is the winner of 10 international first-prize awards, including the 2011 Guitar Foundation of America prize, which includes a recording opportunity with Naxos and a 50-city tour. Tickets are $20 for the general public and $12 for students.
• Concert pianist Kevin Robert Orr will perform works by Mozart, Brahms and Barber at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 15, in Lutkin Hall. Orr has traveled to major music institutions throughout North America, Europe, China, South Korea and Australia as an educator, performer and adjudicator. His recordings of the complete Brahms piano sonatas and ballades (a form of 14th-century poetry set to music) have received critical acclaim, and his performances of both new and standard repertoire have been aired on public radio stations throughout the United States. Orr is a University of Florida Research Foundation Professor and a Steinway Artist. Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students.
• Concluding the season of winter guest artists is pianist Jeffrey Siegel's Keyboard Conversations program, "Schubert in the Age of the Sound Bite," at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 22, in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall. Siegel's "concert with commentary" format will feature a selection of works that demonstrate the glorious melodies, incandescent harmonies and heavenly images of Schubert's music. Siegel has made solo appearances with some of the world's most prestigious orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony, Moscow State Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Tickets are $22 for the general public and $16 for students.
For more information, call the Pick-Staiger Concert Office at (847) 491-5441 or visit www.pickstaiger.org. To order tickets call the Pick-Staiger Ticket Office at (847) 467-4000 or visit the website.