Lake Forest Symphony opens season with a concert jewel

Violinist Stefan Milenkovich
Violinist Stefan Milenkovich

Classical music aficionados used to heading downtown Chicago for programs at Orchestra Hall from fall through spring and to Ravinia Festival in the summer would do well to also check out the Lake Forest Symphony concerts.

With superb interpretations of Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major and Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 “Eroica,” the Lake Forest Symphony reaffirmed its status as a first rate, professional orchestra, last weekend.

After an actual moment of silence to remember the victims of 9/11, the symphony performed the deeply moving Adagio as the musical equivalent. Led by Maestro Vladimir Kulenovic, the orchestra’s reading of the piece was one of extraordinary melancholy contemplation.

Guest artist violinist Stefan Milenkovich brought the house to its feet with the popular Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61. What started out as a concentration in technique for the first movement’s cadenza merged into a more emotional connection with Beethoven’s violin masterpiece and continued with superb bowing. It ended with exceptional communication between the artist and orchestra.

The season’s opening choice of Symphony No 3 “Eroica” aptly fit as a 9/11 heroic tribute. Even though it was Beethoven’s expression of Napoleon’s exciting onset of democratic values in the first movement, then descends into a funeral depression when ideals were abandoned, it ends on a triumphant note that brings to mind “America Strong.”

Kulenovic’s placing first violins to the left and second to the right with the cellos left center was as Beethoven designed the orchestra for best instrumental communication echoing. The results are amazing waves of sound rushing, ebbing and building from one side to the other.

The concert was a fascinating experience as Kulenovic’s phrasing elicited more joy mixed with emotional changes than sometimes noticed in what is an oft played symphony.  Fortunately, the Lake Forest Symphony  whose members play with the CSO and other fine Chicago groups, is a jewel that works well with its talented conductor.

The next concert features Brahms Symphony No. 3 and Dvorak’s Cello Concerto played by Allison Eldredge, Nov. 12-13, 2016.

Concerts are in the College of Lake county’s James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, IL 60030. For tickets and other information visit Lake Forest Symphony and call 847-295-2135.