ARS VIVA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Six years ago, violinist and conductor Alan Heatherington was ousted as the head of the Chicago String Ensemble, a chamber orchestra he'd founded in the late 1970s. But instead of getting mad, he got even: by 1998 his next baby, the midsize Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra, was drawing crowds of several hundred, which dwarfed the CSE's biggest audiences. Ars Viva's offerings are hardly adventurous--the group relies on standards like the late Schubert symphonies, and its forays into the 20th century rarely get more daring than Barber and Copland--but it primarily plays North Shore venues, and suburban concertgoers seem to appreciate this conservatism. Heatherington also has a following of his own as a conductor: he has a reputation for solid, often inspired performances, and his meticulous yet flexible approach helps him make sense of a work's architecture as well as its emotional core. Ars Viva's roster numbers around 40 (roughly twice the size of the CSE), which has allowed him to expand his range and take on some of the same pieces that pop up on Chicago Symphony Orchestra programs, and for many listeners, this means a less expensive but still edifying way to get to know the classics. And Heatherington's rapport with his musicians--most of them CSO or Lyric Opera members, or freelancers he's known for decades--guarantees especially cohesive interpretations. This Sunday's program includes two remarkable symphonies from the standard repertoire--Mozart's no. 31 and Beethoven's Eighth--both of which are often slighted in favor of even better known works; rounding out the bill is the Schumann Cello Concerto with soloist Steven Honigberg. A fervent, exacting player, he trained at Juilliard and was molded to a large extent by Mstislav Rostropovich; composers such as Lukas Foss and David Diamond have written for him. Raised on the North Shore, he often performs here in chamber recitals with his mother, pianist Carol Honigberg. Sunday, November 11, 7:30 PM, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie; 847-234-1811 or 847-673-6300.