Chills down the spine, that is the expression that describes our experience at the James Lumber Center of the College of Lake County. I actually think that the cost of $39 is too cheap and I cannot believe I am saying that. Why all the seats were not filled is beyond me. The music, although I am not a professional, is so overwhelmingly beautiful in a wonderful acoustic setting, that anything but a full house seems odd.
We had seats in the middle of the row, the row being row F, just six rows in. After a brief intro by the Executive Director, Timothy Corpus, everything began. Vladimir Kulenovic, a tall, athletic maestro who behaved like a charismatic dancer on the podium, gave clearly informative intros before each performance: Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz, Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. Kulenovic spoke with his very good, slightly Serbian accented English and relates very well to his orchestra and the audience.
The performances we have seen of the Lake Forest Symphony are never ones where you can doze. Because of the wonderful, short explanations filled with interesting trivial tidbits, you totally relate the background with what you are hearing. You cannot help but be enthralled.
It is clear to me that music is another language. Music is poetry and expression and is filled with the emotions of the composer and totally affected by the interpretation of the conductor and the performance of the individual orchestra members.
It didn’t hurt that we went with our friends who are very active in the world of music, one of whom is a former band director in the middle school. They both explained many things to us that we didn’t know about, like the standard use of the baton in conducting and how Kulenovic sometimes used his own variations instead of the traditional.
At the wine reception afterwards, we actually had a chance to speak to Kulenovic and Schwarz (the cello soloist for the Cello Concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich) and to orchestra members. My biggest shock was that the orchestra only meets about three to five times to rehearse for a performance. Given what we saw, I am totally blown away.
Standing ovations were in order and the Sunday afternoon performance lasted longer than the Saturday night rendition.
One last thought, Shostakovich is not always the most loved composer, but with the background information Vladimir Kulenovic gave us and the fact that I recently read a book on Shostakovich by Julian Barnes recently, I could totally feel the pain and emotion of a composer living in Stalinist Russia and always under the threat of its Caligula-like leader to imprison and/or execute him.
Meanwhile, painting continues.