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Lake Forest Symphony concerts: A good reason to venture out

Guest conductor Vlademir Kulenovic leads pianist ralph Votapek and the Lake Forest Symphony in the orchestra's season opening September concert.
Guest conductor Vlademir Kulenovic leads pianist ralph Votapek and the Lake Forest Symphony in the orchestra's season opening September concert.
Lake Forest Symphony

Lake Forest Symphony Nov. 2-3, 2013 Concert

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Sometimes, when you haven’t visited a friend for a while you forget how much fun it is getting together. Such was the case last weekend regarding the award-winning Lake Forest Symphony Orchestra.

The symphony’s 2013-14 season is all about trying out guest conductors before selecting one to replace noted conductor Alan Heatherington who served as music director from 2000 to spring of 2013.

Under the baton of Russell Ger, an Australian transplant currently residing in New York, audiences were treated to a heavenly program of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony No. 41 in C major, the world premier of “Celestial Suite” by Lake Forest Symphony composer-in-residence James Stephenson and four movements of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.”

The symphony responded to Ger’s conducting style as talented, seasoned professionals.

To bring out all of Mozart’s nuances in the second Andante cantabile, Ger slowed what is usually a delightful, layered movement to a tempo where he arguably sacrificed its charm just to emphasize its construction.

Stephenson’s "Celestial Suite" of five short movements wasn’t a good barometer of conducting style or orchestra strength because the operative word was “short.” The first three movements were more like buffet samples than developed recipes. Hopefully, the composer will return to the suite to further develop his themes for “Copernicus,” “Galileo” and “Newton.”

However, the orchestra reminded audiences of their wonderful musicality during Holst’s “Mars,” “Venus” “Mercury” and “Jupiter” movements.

Because Lake Forest Symphony is an exceptional orchestra, it will likely make all its guest conductors sound good.

After a two-year hiatus of covering more Chicago theater than music, it was rewarding to find that a Lake Forest Symphony concert, held as it is at the acoustically excellent James Lumber Center at the College of Lake County, is a good reason to leave the comfort of home.

Details: The Lake Forest Symphony Orchestra performs at the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts at the College of Lake County, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, IL 60030. For future concert information and tickets visit Lake Forest Symphony or call 847-295-2135.