Arts » Classical Music

Review: ICO celebrates Butler ArtsFest


Kirk Trevor & the ICO
  • Kirk Trevor & the ICO

Though "Banned Music" was the title of Friday's ICO concert, in keeping with Butler's Outlaws & Outsiders ArtsFest theme, the ICO term seemed a bit stretched in music director Kirk Trevor's program.  Handel's opera Agrippina (1709) was played to great acclaim in Venice while Handel was there; Trevor opened the program with its overture.  Renaldo (1711) was not produced in Italy during Handel's Italian residency, but had its world premiere in England in the year it was written.   Trevor played four excerpts from it, showing a good sensitivity to the Baroque style, as well as in the Agrippina Overture.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883), a musical genius, but even a greater one in his own mind, felt he was above the law which applied to ordinary mortals.  Thus he had to escape Dresden in the 1840s because of his leftist politics -- and avoided being sent to debtor's prison in other instances.  But Trevor selected Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, with its world premiere on Christmas morning 1870 in the Wagner household as a gift to his wife Cosima whose birthday was Dec. 24.  It was never banned. Trevor gave us the chamber version augmented by extra strings over the few that fit on the Wagner staircase.

Franz Schreker (1878-1934) found himself a Jew in the world of Nazi Germany.  But prior to that period, he wrote his Chamber Symphony (Kammersymphonie) for 23 Solo Instruments (1916) which at the time was not banned but surely was during the Third Reich.  Trevor expanded this short, five-movement work to include all his regular strings.

It is regrettable that Trevor is retiring from the orchestra following his May 16 concert,  just when the group has found its perfect venue and Trevor has coelseced his players into such a unified body.  All three composers and their works were given top-notch readings, most especially the Siegfried Idyll, a work which I find to be at the summit of Wagner's creative genius, the Romantic era's most beautiful music.  Trevor and his players wove their way through Wagner's themes and counterthemes, each using the augmented triad (e.g. D - F# - A#) as a tension raiser.  Tension - relaxation - tension - resolution.  Nobody did it better than Wagner, and few have realized it better than our chamber orchestra and its director.

Schreker's Chamber Symphony leans toward Richard Strauss without imitating him. The presence of such percussion instruments as the xylophone, cymbals, triangle, harp, piano, harmonium and celesta--though modestly used--contributed a set of timbres unique to this composer.  And Trevor balanced them with the rest of his orchestra, producing many tonal intervals against "controlled" dissonance, with each new movement marking a tempo change.  This was, in my recollection, my introduction to the work; it belongs in the standard repertoire. April 17; Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts


This Week's Flyers

Around the Web