Here is my Friday October 22 suntimes.com and Saturday October 23 Chicago Sun-Times review of the Thursday October 21, 2010 Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert with violinist Gil Shaham at Wentz Concert Hall of North Central College in Naperville. The program repeats at the CSO's Orchestra Hall home in downtown Chicago on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Gil Shaham, characteristically putting on a happy face
Gil Shaham, CSO pair classics and moderns
North Central College's Wentz Hall in Naperville 'a gem'
This week’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts are serving many purposes.
Wednesday offered the first installment of this season’s CSO Afterwork Masterworks series of early evening, shorter, and intermissionless programs. Thursday brought a run-out to the acoustically delightful Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College in Naperville. The week’s string-based repertoire showcases the sound of a chamber-sized orchestra. All of the performances feature the spirited playing of Israeli-American violinist Gil Shaham.
I caught the Thursday concert, in part because it included the first CSO performance of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s 1939-1959 Concerto funebre as a part of Shaham’s ongoing survey of concertos from the 1930s. (It will be repeated on tonight’s program as well.) I also wanted to get out to Wentz, a 605-seat gem, that opened two years ago as an anchor of the revived fine arts programs at North Central. I was very glad that I did.
This was the CSO’s second visit to the Naperville hall, and its first with a reduced-size ensemble. With a concept and acoustical design by Oak Park’s internationally renowned Talaske/Sound Thinking (who designed the sound system at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion), the room is physically intimate but with a large vertical space and other features that allow for full resonance and reverberation. Just a 40-minute train ride from Chicago’s Union Station, Wentz is a worthy additional venue for the metropolitan area.
The Downstate-born Shaham is somehow billed as conductor of these concerts, and that’s a misnomer. In the Hartmann and two Classical-era works, he leads the players as a soloist, making few other gestures toward his colleagues. Samuel Barber’s 1935-36 Adagio for Strings is led assuredly by assistant concertmaster Yuan-Qing Yu from her seat. Regardless of the billing confusion, the concert offers satisfying pairings and contrasts of Haydn and Mozart, Barber and Hartmann, and classical and neo-classical.
Hartmann (1905-1963), a non-Jewish German composer, chose what he termed an “inner exile” while remaining in Munich during the Nazi period and World War II but refusing performances of his works. Begun in 1939 as Music of Mourning for the invasion of Czechoslovakia, this version was reworked 20 years later as a “Funeral Concerto” for solo violin and strings. Fierce and angry, it was a fascinating 20-minute counterpoint to Barber’s basically contemporaneous and much more compact work, particularly with both the lightness and intensity of chamber forces.
Haydn’s G Major Concerto No. 4 from the 1760s and Mozart’s “Turkish” A Major turn from 1775, K. 219, framed the 20th century pieces, with players and Shaham demonstrating passion and delicacy as appropriate.