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Center stage suits Scott Speck, Chicago Philharmonic musicians

Scott Speck will lead Chicago Philharmonic Pick-Staiger concert Hall Northwestern University’s Evanstcampus.

Scott Speck will lead the Chicago Philharmonic at Pick-Staiger concert Hall on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

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‘Speck-tacular Beethoven’

The Chicago Philharmonic

♦ 7 p.m. April 22

♦ Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 50 Arts Circle Dr., Evanston

♦ Tickets, $20-$75

♦ (847) 866-6888;

Updated: May 21, 2012 8:22AM

A maestro who conducts for the Joffrey Ballet, an orchestra with members from the Lyric Opera orchestra and a soloist who is Lyric’s concertmaster will all have a chance to get out of the pit Sunday evening.

Scott Speck, who for the last three years has conducted the Chicago Sinfonietta for Joffrey performances at the Auditorium Theatre, will lead the Chicago Philharmonic at Pick-Staiger concert Hall on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus.

One soloist, Robert Hanford of Evanston, is concertmaster of the Lyric Orchestra that plays at the Civic Opera House. “There is a pool of my fellow musicians from Lyric in this orchestra,” Hanford said. “It is good for us to come up and sit on the stage for a change.”

The program includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and the composer’s overture to “Fidelio,” his only opera. Hanford will be soloist in Camille St. Saens’ “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso,” and Rex Martin, principal tuba in the Chicago Philharmonic, will solo in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Tuba Concerto.

Speck grew up in Boston, graduated from Yale University and was a Fulbright Scholar for two years in Berlin. “During that time I joined the chorus of the Berlin Philharmonic,” he said. “We were conducted by Herbert von Karajan, and I became aware of how important it was for ensembles to breathe together, to perform as one. That experience was one of the biggest and most lasting influences in my life.”

Certainly breathing together is crucial in choral work, but it is also one of the most powerful aspects of a chamber music concert. “Those groups play like an organism, as if they were one unit and it makes the performance so exciting,” he said.

“I try to accomplish that same sense of intimacy and unity when I conduct an orchestra,” he continued. “I want to players to watch me, of course, but I want them to be looking at each other also, aware of what is happening.

“Just as a male dancer partners the ballerina, holding her waist lightly, helping her spin, making her look good,” he said, drawing on his Joffrey experience, “so the orchestra should give active but subtle accompaniment to the soloists. All the eyes should be on the soloist, but we should be there, assisting him or her.”

That requires a degree of attentiveness Speck calls “being on the edge.” “When we are playing Beethoven’s ecstatic Seventh Symphony it can never be old hat,” he said. “I want us to be on the edge of exhilaration, playing with intensity, as if the music is being created right then in real time.”

Dorothy Andries is a local free-lance writer.

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