Weather Updates

Siblings perform with Highland Park Strings

Pianist MartAznavoorian Glencoe grew up Barringt| Phoby LisMazzucco

Pianist Marta Aznavoorian of Glencoe grew up in Barrington | Photo by Lisa Mazzucco

storyidforme: 44543458
tmspicid: 16361009
fileheaderid: 7352645

‘Saint-Saens Squared’

Highland Park Strings, Bennett-Gordon Hall at Ravinia, Lake-Cook and Green Bay roads, Highland Park

3 p.m. Feb. 17; “The Art of Listening to Today’s Concert,” free lecture by Stephanie Ettelson begins 2 p.m.

$40 general admission

(847) 831-3622 or visit

The current season of the Highland Park Strings has a charming theme — each concert features a pair of musical siblings.

“Last season Nikki Chooi played with us,” said Larry Block, founder and principal cellist with the string orchestra now in its 34th season. “After the concert, he said ‘I have a younger brother who is more talented than I am.’ ”

That sparked an idea and Block started to think about all the families, fired by both nature and nurture, who raise more than one musical child. Even off the top of his head, he could name more such families than he had spots in the 2012-13 season.

“Abby suggested ‘Double Your Pleasure!’ for the season title,” he said, referring to his wife and the Strings most supportive fan, “and we were up and running.”

The benefit concert, which is always in mid-winter at the acoustically splendid Bennett-Gordon Hall, will star a pair of sisters raised in a well-known musical family in Barrington: Marta Aznavoorian of Glencoe, pianist; and Ani Aznavoorian, now living in Santa Barbara, whose father made the cello that she plays.

Previously titled “Schumann Squared,” their program now will feature the music of Saint-Saens. “We stayed with the same letter, so the title remained almost the same,” joked Marta, pianist for the Lincoln Trio, trio in residence at the Music Institute of Chicago, where she also teaches.

The two decided on the change after the Strings’ season brochure was printed. “We both thought the Saint-Seans concertos would work better for us,” said Ani, who after 11 years in New York City joined the Camerata Pacifica, married a Californian and remains on the West Coast.

“It is nice to have Ani come home,” said Marta. “We are asked frequently to play together here.”

She laughed and then added. “We often say that with sisters no rehearsal is required, but, of course, it is welcome.”

On this program, however, the two women will not be playing together. “There are concertos for two violins, like the Bach Double, and for violin, cello and piano, like the Beethoven Triple,” said Ani, “but there is no concerto for piano and cello.”

Marta is playing the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 2 and Ani is playing the composer’s only Cello Concerto.

Marta has performed previously under the baton of the Strings artistic director Francesco Milioto. In the summer of 2010 she and Benjamin Hochman played Saint-Seans’ two piano work “Carnival of the Animals” with Milioto’s New Millennium Orchestra during a Young People’s program in the pavilion at the Ravinia Festival.

“I’m looking forward to working with him again,” she said, “and I look forward to playing with the Strings, not only as an orchestra, but because of what they give the community with their free concerts every season.”

Block himself knows something about the way music can create a bond between siblings. In addition to his own serious study of and life-long performance on the cello, his brother Buddy is a violinist who played in the Strings for decades. “Our sister Carol plays the piano,” Block declared. “So I was raised in a musical family too.”

The final concert of the Strings season will be at 3 p.m. May 19, when sisters Elisa Barston, violin, and Amy Barston, cello, will play Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in Highland Park High School. Admission to this program is free.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.