The debut of the Dempster St Pro Musica on July 25 was a coup for those residents of Evanston who took the opportunity to hear this extraordinary concert. Michael Henoch, assistant principal oboist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, founded the Dempster St Pro Musica earlier this year.

The group will have no fixed personnel or repertoire for their 2008-09 season. DSPM was established specifically to present concerts in residence at S.P.A.C.E (Society for the Preservation of Arts and Culture in Evanston,) on Chicago Ave., a new concert space at 1245 Chicago Ave.

The musicians who performed at the July 25 debut concert are all members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Musicians who play with DSPM at its Nov. 2 and March 29 concerts will be drawn from other outstanding chamber music ensembles of both local and national repute. Musicians who are members of world-class orchestras, such as the CSO, often participate in projects that challenge their abilities and broaden their artistic horizons.

Mr. Henoch told the audience on July 25 that the majority of serenades by Mozart were background music for social occasions. Popular understanding of the serenade is based almost entirely on the works of Mozart, he said. The majority of Mozart’s serenades were composed in Salzburg for local patrons – entertainment music performed for affluent Salzburg families on a regular basis.

The July 25 performance of Serenade in C major (K.439), was an unforgettable as well as a spirited interpretation of this work but in a more intimate setting. The first thing that stood out about this group was the beautiful overall tone.  The changes in tempi, subtly matched dynamics and phrasing and lively short solos kept listeners riveted to their performance.  The DSPM blended seamlessly throughout this engaging musical evening.

The Beethoven String Trio in G major was sensitively played by Nathan Cole, violin, Lawrence Neuman,viola, and Brant Taylor, cello.  The richness in each instrument complemented the others as one string player took over the melodic line from one another – a highlight of the evening.

The sonorous tone of the trio only enhanced the way these musicians played notes that bounced back and forth in this early composition by Beethoven.

Last on the program was Haydn’s Divertimento in B flat (Hob.11:4), which integrated the oboe into the chamber concept. A divertimento is almost always performed with one player per part, and DSPM performed this piece as intended with a small ensemble.

In both the Mozart and the Haydn pieces, Mr. Henoch demonstrated fluid technique and played with clean and accurate articulations while making the most complex passages flow and sounds effortless. His interpretations are characterized by their subtlety, richness of nuance; and his tone was beautiful, full, changing and intense.

The serenade, a lively and lyrical musical form of the Classical period, is  full of elaborate exchanges and technical demands that are especially appealing for the strings.

From the outset the considerable poise and virtuosity of the brilliant players of the Dempster St Pro Musica engaged the listeners in a sound world of elegant melodic line and rich texture.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed the ‘Serenade for a Summer’s Evening,’  an energetic beginning to the DSPR season and a wonderful introduction to anyone who has not heard a performance in this S.P.A.C.E. The two concerts on Nov. 2 and March 29 promise equally fine evenings.

This article first appeared in the July 25, 2008 RoundTable.