Deerfield composer’s work gets orchestral debut
‘Now and Then’
The Highland Park Strings, Highland Park High School, 433 Vine Ave.
3 p.m. May 20
Admission is free. Preconcert lecture by Stephanie Ettelson at 2 p.m.
For information, visit www.hpstrings.org
Updated: May 16, 2012 2:49PM
Three soloists and an original composition by Dr. Armando Susmano of Deerfield are on the program for the final concert of the 33rd season of the Highland Park Strings free concerts, set for 3 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at Highland Park High School.
Susmano’s Serenade for Flute, Strings and Percussion will open the program with Constance Volk, principal flute of the New Millennium Orchestra, as featured performer.
Guest conductor will be trumpeter Stephen Burns, who will also solo in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto. Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 will be on the program.
Award-winning pianist Lori Kaufman will be soloist in Mozart’s popular Concerto No. 21. The work’s Andante movement was used in the 1967 film “Elvira Madigan,” and ever since the concerto has been a perennial favorite.
Susmano, who has lived in Deerfield since 1995, came to composition late in life. Born in Buenos Aires, he studied medicine in Argentina and earned his degree in 1961.
That year he arrived in Chicago to complete studies in Internal Medicine and Cardiology. “I came here and never left,” he said during a recent interview. “I had my medical residency at the old Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center and became an attending physician there until I retired in 1997.”
He didn’t completely retire, however. He is professor of medicine and emeritus cardiologist at Rush Medical College, part-time cardiologist consultant to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in North Chicago, and has taught at the Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University on Green Bay Road in North Chicago.
“But I had always played the piano and after I retired I wanted to compose,” he explained. So that very June he enrolled in a composition class with Lazar Trachtenberg on the Winnetka campus of the Music Institute of Chicago.
“He was on the faculty at the University of Chicago and had been a student of Shulamit Ran,” Susmano said. “I learned so much from him about harmony and musical structure.”
By his own estimate, Susmano has written 33 musical compositions. “Solo pieces, trios, quartets. chamber works,” he said, “plus three pieces for orchestra, including one symphony I wrote between 2006 and 2007.”
When asked for the opus number of the Serenade which the Highland Park Strings will play Sunday, he laughed. “Maybe 24 or 25,” he said, “I haven’t counted.”
The 2002 work, which runs between 12 and 14 minutes and is dedicated to Dr. Trachtenberg, was performed by a chamber group from the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest in 2005. “But for the first time this work will be played by an orchestra,” he said.
Susmano’s Trio for viola, French horn and piano was played at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s chamber music series in Fullerton Hall of the Art Institute of Chicago on April 23.
“Some of my compositions have been given private performances in homes of family and friends,” he said, obviously pleased that his music has been presented in the time-honored salon tradition.
He has composed for piano, violin, trumpet, bandoneon, piano and cello, piano and violin, flute and cello, two guitars, and a quartet for winds.
Susmano studied with Trachtenberg for a decade, until his wife Lidia became ill and he began to care for her. She died three years ago and Susmano stopped composing completely. “I miss my inspiration,” he explained simply.
Their two daughters, Laura Englander and Sandra Doninger, will be attending the concert Sunday.
Susmano estimates that he has been supporting the Highland Park Strings for more than a decade, and he is sponsoring this free concert as well.
The Highland Park Strings presents its concerts with support from the Park District of Highland Park, YEA! Highland Park and the Rotary Club of Highland Park/Highwood.