Symphony Center’s “Rivers Festival” is in its third week of exploration of the significance of rivers in music and culture.…
Just two days after taking part in a performance of new music for the University of Chicago’s Contempo series, the…
Nichols Hall in Evanston played host to the Rembrandt Chamber Players’ final concert of the season Sunday night. The evening boasted…
Spring music festivals can be invigorating, especially in a city like Chicago where winters seem to last…
Impassioned Mahler “Resurrection” marks a fitting close to Heatherington era at Lake Forest Symphony
Alan Heatherington was appointed music director of the Lake Forest Symphony Orchestra in 2000. Since then the Illinois Council of Orchestras has twice honored him with the title of “Conductor of the Year” in 2005 and 2012.
When he approached the podium in the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts in Grayslake Friday night, he was greeted with warm applause and a standing ovation for this penultimate performance with the orchestra. After 12 seasons, Heatherington is departing the Lake Forest Symphony.
Friday, Heatherington guided the orchestra through the dense score of Mahler’s Second Symphony, “Resurrection,” in an intense and spellbinding performance that truly explored the emotional extremes of the piece and its profound subject matter.
In 1888 Mahler composed a single-movement symphonic poem entitled, Totenfeier (Funeral Rite), which later became the first movement of the Second Symphony. Over the next six years, Mahler worked on the score, which gradually began to take shape, completing it in 1894.
Mahler knew he wanted the final movement to feature chorus and soloists, but struggled to find the proper text. At the funeral of fellow conductor and friend, Hans von Bülow, Mahler heard Friedrich Klopstock’s poem, Die Auferstehung (The Resurrection) sung, and finally found the words. The symphony contemplates ends and beginnings, life and death, ending in the words, “Rise again, thou shalt rise again.”
With a great sweeping motion Heatherington gave the downbeat and the strings’ fierce tremolo began the 80-minute journey. The syncopated, lopsided undercurrent of the first movement played in the lower strings was clear and incisively phrased with great cohesion to each episode. The waltz rhythm of the second movement had a natural flow, and the tone of the violins was highlighted as they swept freely together.
The third movement features a long flowing line of sixteenth notes that passes through the orchestra. The interplay and handing-off of the idea was done seamlessly with the volatile interruptions of the flowing movement never allowed to spin out of control.
In the central vocal movement Urlicht (Primeval Light), mezzo-soprano Sarah Homan sang with a lovely, tender tone though her placement amid the choir resulted in a rather buried sound.
The final movement was attacked with great energy and enthusiasm, with the offstage horn and trumpet calls effectively done. After sitting silently for over an hour, the Chicago Master Singers entered at a hushed triple pianissimo. Their sound was well balanced, with the slowly shifting harmonies unfolding easily and with a unified tone. The soprano soloist, Michelle Areyzaga, blossomed from the choral sound organically and beautifully.
Heatherington guided the orchestra through the finale with great care, alertly balancing the vast forces. The sound coming from the stage was truly astonishing – incredibly loud without ever being coarse. The final bars made Mahler’s symphony feel like a complete journey, and proved a fitting end to Heatherington’s artistic leadership of the north suburban ensemble, the Lake Forest musicians delivering a performance of great passion, intensity and conviction.
The program will be repeated 8 p.m. Saturday at the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts. lakeforestsymphony.org
Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Schubert: Adagio in E-Flat (Notturno)
Schubert: Auf der Donau
Schubert: Auf dem Flusse
Schubert: Mignon und der Harfner
Schubert: Der Hirt auf dem Felsen
Schubert: Die Forelle
Chicago Opera Theater’s 2014 season promises to continue the edgy and inventive programming that has characterized its first two productions…