The Highland Park Strings is thriving under its new music director Francesco Milioto. The ensemble gave the first concert of its 30th anniversary season Sunday, Oct. 12 in Elm Place School and showed a fresh clarity and precision that is a direct result of Milioto's exacting hand.
To enhance the opener three guest artists, the Goldstein-Kaler-Peled Trio, took part in the concert. Violinist Ilya Kaler, the only person ever to win the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Paganini competitions, was soloist in "Autumn" from Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons."
That was followed by "Hassidic Suite" written in 1946 by Ukrainian composer Joachim Stutchewsky, with an extended part for cello, played by Amit Peled. Kaler and Peled were then joined by their colleague, pianist Alon Goldstein, for the Beethoven Triple Concerto.
The concerto is always a crowd pleaser and the Strings, augmented for this piece by wind and brass, rose to the occasion and played with special polish. The three soloists, who strained the space on the Elm Place stage, were breathtaking -- an exciting blend of experience from Kaler and youthful energy from Peled and Goldstein.
At times it seemed as if Beethoven gave the cellist the most beautiful music and Peled's cello was glowing, with a deeply resonant quality that was spellbinding. But just then Kaler's violin began to sing so sweetly that it seemed that instrument was the composer's favorite. Until, of course, the piano began to emerge with thundering authority.
So enraptured was the crowd with the performance that the trio played an encore -- a movement from a Mendelssohn work, which Peled dedicated to Larry Block, founder and co-principal cellist of the Strings.
The afternoon began with something of a calling card for the Highland Park Strings -- Mozart's Divertimento in D Major, which, Block told the audience, the ensemble has played on their tours to Israel, Italy and Mexico.
The familiarity was immediately apparent. The players dug into the piece with confidence, managing the composer's bright phrases as well as the long, sweet soothing passages with ease.- Dorothy Andries, Evanston Review, October 14, 2008