Highland Park Strings close season in high style
The Highland Park Strings just wrapped up its 33rd season of free Sunday afternoon concerts, and a 34th will commence Oct. 21. That’s reason enough to cheer this volunteer ensemble, but the concert on May 20 provided additional incentive.
Not only did it boast an original work by a local composer, a trumpet player who soloed in a Haydn concerto while conducting, and a pianist who played Mozart with exquisite sensitivity, but it also included a full-scale symphony by Schubert.
Strings founder and co-principal cellist Larry Block remarked to the audience that Deerfield composer Armando Susmano expressed a bit of concern about having his work on a program with such “fast company” as Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert!
Not to worry. His Serenade for Flute, Strings and Percussion, which opened the second half of the two-hour program, had a charming, accessible melody and was well played by Connie Volk, the Strings’ principal flute. Percussion players were Blaine Inafuku, who struck wooden blocks, Michelle Horvath who played the always-welcome harp, and Sarah Barnes who deftly delivered the warm round tones of the marimba.The choice of the marimba was inspired, as it gave a buoyant underpinning to the sound of the flute and strings.
The Strings regular conductor Francesco Milioto was on the podium at his Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra Sunday, so trumpeter Stephen Burns served as guest conductor.
The terrible transparency of the trumpet notwithstanding, Burns presented Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto ably in his dual roles. He didn’t miss a note when a cell phone went off during his cadenza, and he gave the work’s beautiful Andante Cantabile a sound as sweet as honey.
Then, hands free and sans baton, Burns led the Highland Park Strings in a well-prepared and entirely satisfying performance of Schubert’s Symphony No. 5. He drew feather-light phrases from the winds and coaxed out the lovely lyricism of the second movement from the string players.
Lori Kaufman soloed in Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major. She was particularly skillful in articulating Mozart’s incandescent phrases and she just broke our heart with the concerto’s transcendent Andante movement.
It was a lovely afternoon, all the more so because there’s no one else around here doing what the Highland Park Strings is determined to do — present orchestral concerts open to the public, free of charge.
Bravo Highland Park Strings and hooray that you have plans for next season already in hand!