Big rewards from small concerts
Pianist George LePauw performed at the Northbrook Public Library on Nov. 2.
Updated: November 20, 2012 11:44AM
Good things come in small packages, they say, and recently, two delightful programs took place in sites off the beaten path.
Parisian Salon Concerts
The Parisian Salon concerts in the Northbrook Public Library have been produced the first Friday of the month by Didier and Jane Lepauw of Northbrook for 13 years. The free series is now in its 14th season and on the evening of Friday Nov. 2 the library’s 188-seat auditorium was very close to full.
The night was evenly divided into jazz and classical music. Pianist George Lepauw, founder of the International Beethoven Project and the Lepauw’s son, was the classical attraction. He’s just come off a two-month run in the TimeLine Theatre Company’s “33 Variations,” in which he played Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli.
To call the “Diabelli” diabolical is no exaggeration. It is devilishly difficult and thus rarely played.
Lepauw’s technique never faltered during the breakneck pace of many of the variations, some barely more than a dozen and a half measures, others stretching well beyond.
There were quiet moments as well, evoking the tranquil movements of Beethoven’s numerous piano sonatas.
Lepauw’s powers of expression were hampered by a piano with a dense bass, which delivered sound but little music. He handled it, however, and gave the audience a powerful performance.
The evening opened with a Jared Hochberg Sextet, minus one, as their trumpet player Marquis Hill was unavailable. Hochberg, a senior at Glenbrook North High School, was joined by trombonist Adam Thornburg, guitarist Hans Luchs, bass Noah Lande and drummer Xavier Breaker, all of them in their twenties.
They knew their crowd and served up classic songs, such as “All the Things you Are” and “Just the Way You Are,” with enjoyable variations.
The evening hung together very well. For what is jazz but, like Beethoven’s “Diabelli,” a series of inventive and challenging variations on a particular melody?
Dempster Street Pro Musica
Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal oboe Michael Henoch established the Dempster Street Pro Musica in 2008. “Just before the economic crisis,” he remarked wryly to the audience Sunday afternoon Nov. 4. A packed house had filled the 120 seats at 1245 Chicago Ave., in Evanston’s cleverly constructed S.P.A.C.E.
Henoch’s Dempster Street has survived and is obviously thriving, with a dedicated audience enjoying its informal atmosphere and high performance standards.
This critic arrived late, due to numerous tow-away signs on Chicago Avenue and only heard half Robert Schumann’s “Funf Stucke im Volkson” played by cellist Kenneth Olsen and pianist Andrea Swan.
The afternoon was titled “Brahms and Friends,” and focused on composers who were part of his intimate private circle. Schumann is a familiar name, but the program also featured a wind and piano quartet in four movements by Heinrich Von Herzogenberg, played by Henoch, clarinetist Steven Cohen, CSO hornist Daniel Gingrich, bassoonist Tariq Masri, and Swan.
“Herzogenberg was a fine composer, but not a great one,” Henoch said before the music began. It was implied that we should listen carefully, as, he explained, “You’ll probably never hear this piece again.”
It was, in fact, filled with charming music that brought out the distinct qualities of the wind instruments — the rotund French horn, the slender voices of the clarinet and oboe, plus the deep growl of the bassoon, set against the shimmering percussion of the piano. The score had a merry heart, laced through with a lilting folk-style.
A short number by another Brahms friend Julius Rontgen was followed by the Brahms
Sextet No. 2. For this Henoch assembled his CSO colleagues violinists Robert Chen and Lei Hou; violists Lawrence Neuman and Yukiko Ogura, and cellists Kenneth Olsen and Brant Taylor.
The theme of the afternoon was fascinating, the program was unusual and was played by musicians who are among the best in Chicago. So it is not surprising that Henoch’s winning approach to chamber music is now in its fifth season.