Classical Review: Lake Forest Symphony revels in riches of strings
Alan Heatherington conducts the Lake Forest Symphony
Some of the most beautiful music ever written for strings was presented by the Lake Forest Symphony the evening of Jan. 25 at the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts in Grayslake.
Titled “Sizzling Strings,” the program, conducted by music director Alan Heatherington, began with the sublime “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber. The rich shifting harmonies, so tender and mournful, ascended in radiant pilgrimage to a heart-breaking peak, then descended to a peace-filled calm.
The orchestra played with such care that when the music quietly ceased, the audience, seemingly suspended, sat for more than a few moments in respectful silence. Only after that did the applause explode.
Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite was written to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Danish writer Ludvig Holberg, and is a showcase for stings.
Dances parade through the pages of the score, with a bright energetic opener, followed by a charming saraband, a stately gavotte, with basses doubling as absent drums.
The delicate Air was suffused with chiaroscuro, violins shining and cellos deeply soulful. A fiddle-fest concluded the five-movement work, which can certainly can stand beside the composer’s more frequently played music from “Peer Gynt.”
The surprise of the night was Igor Stravinsky’s music for the 1928 ballet “Apollo,” written for Diaghliev’s Ballets Russes. Concertmaster Ilya Kaler had several solos and you could almost see dancers, as the rhythms pulsated beneath the melodic phrases.
I had never heard this music, but the composer’s linear phrases and contrasting fierce jagged patterns are signature Stravinsky. The orchestra expressed the work’s joy, overflowing with the release that comes with movement.
Ballet fans will note that “Apollo” was choreographed for Ballet Russes by the young George Balanchine, who later founded the New York City Ballet.
Music director Heatherington was once conductor of the Chicago String Ensemble and his affinity for string music is palpable. He is a violinist himself, which was reflected in his sensitive phrasing and care with which he articulated the melodic line.
The program was repeated on Jan. 26.
The next Lake Forest Symphony concerts are titled “Stormy Tchaikovsky” and will be held at the Lumber Center March 15 and 16. For information, visit www.lakeforestsymphony.org or call (847) 295-2135.