Northbrook Symphony fills Mother's Day weekend with music

  • Mina Zikri, music director of the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra.

    Mina Zikri, music director of the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra. COURTESY OF THE NORTHBROOK SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.

Updated 4/29/2021 1:22 AM

Northbrook Symphony music director Mina Zikri has selected a real people pleaser for the symphony's Mother's Day weekend performances.

Johann Sebastian Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 5" has something for literally everyone, the conductor said.


"People who like music like it, even people who don't like music like it," he said. "It's easy for everyone to agree on."

The "Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, BWV 1050," a prerecorded live performance presented virtually, will be offered at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, May 7-8, and at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 9. A discussion with Zikri will follow each performance.

This will hedge toward a chamber piece with a group of about 13 musicians, below the 42 Zikri said performed in the Northbrook Symphony's 2020-21 season opener in October, Mozart's "Violin Concerto No. 4" featuring Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert master Robert Chen.

"One of the reasons we chose it," Zikri said of the Bach composition, "is because it's COVID-friendly. When you have less people in the room it's easier to manage."

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Sometimes less is more. In addition to the professional Northbrook Symphony musicians the Mother's Day concerts will feature the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Gina DiBello on violin and Emma Gerstein on flute plus harpsichord master Mark Shuldiner, who has played for the CSO, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and more.

Maestro Zikri said harpsichord is rarely heard in Northbrook Symphony performances. Its inclusion in the "Brandenburg" work is a rarity in itself.

"It's the first cadenza to be written in the history of music for harpsichord," said Zikri, a Cairo-born violinist whose emphasis on the classics this season brought works of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and now Bach to the Northbrook Symphony. A fifth program for early June has yet to be determined.

Zikri, 43, of Wilmette, is exceedingly well-traveled and well-connected since arriving from his native Egypt in 1999 to study violin at DePaul University. For more than two decades Zikri has been a guest conductor and violinist to former CSO music director Daniel Barenboim with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, based in Seville, Spain.


In 2005 he founded the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago, which performs at DePaul (and twice at Carnegie Hall). He's also conductor in residence of the Lira Ensemble, which plays Polish and American repertoire, its home base at Loyola University.

Zikri returns once a season to conduct the Cairo National Symphony, in which his older brother, Amir, plays viola.

Mina Zikri started playing violin at 8 years old. He is in his second full year as music director of the 41-year-old Northbrook Symphony Orchestra. He said it's "very admirable that a community would have its own professional orchestra and would be able to maintain it for that long."

Like any artist he's dismayed none of the 2020-21 concerts have been played in front of a live audience at the symphony's usual space, the Sheely Center for the Performing Arts at Glenbrook North High School.

Still, Zikri made a vow "that our music would never stop."

He said one positive over the past year has been an agreement with suburban music teachers to start a "Schools in Concert" program that has introduced symphony repertoire into school curriculum and has streamed live performances to about 3,000 students.

To them, streaming technology has become second-nature. Older Northbrook Symphony subscribers are less likely to watch online. For the 2021-22 season Zikri hopes to create parallel programs for online and in-person viewing, provided "there's no risk involved," he said.

"The arts are a very good place for people to be together and do things together and forget their differences and forget their problems, and focus on one thing," Zikri said.

For tickets for the Northbrook Symphony Mother's Day Weekend performance, call (847) 272-0755 or visit

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