Arts » Classical Music

Review: ISO plays French hits


Violinist Alina Ibragimova
  • Violinist Alina Ibragimova

Alas, another 7:30 p.m. Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Symphonic Hits program suffered from poor attendance last weekend. With a popular German guest conductor, Jun Märkl, and Friday evening's bang-up program of French "hits" only filling the Circle to about a third of its capacity, one can only wonder why. Was it that Hoosier violin super star Joshua Bell was playing simultaneously at Carmel's Palladium? Direct evening competition for classical audiences can run any one or all of them thin, especially in the times we now live. Perhaps presenters should collectively take this more into consideration - for everybody's mutual gain.

Märkl began his program with the lively Le Corsair Overture for orchestra by Berlioz, one which doesn't introduce anything - just a concert overture going through a few revisions during which the composer had toyed with more grandiose ideas. Our guest conductor had the strings racing one way and another, with other choirs intervening as needed. Everybody seemed geared up, playing together and with superabundant energy; it was a breathless curtain raiser (if only the Circle had a curtain).

Violinist Alina Ibragimova, 27, then appeared for the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 61 (1880). This most popular of his three violin concertos is well put together, if a bit discursively. It doesn't present any really catchy tunes for people to hum afterwards. But Märkl managed the work's well crafted orchestral parts while Ibragimova provided an engagingly tossed-off solo account. Aside from some obvious tonal variations - wobbly to almost "white" - and playing too soft in places, our young Russian guest vies well with the many up-and-comers in the field.

Two evocations of Spain written by two French composers ended the program: Claude Debussy's great tone painting, Ibéria (1908), from his Images for orchestra and Maurice Ravel's concurrently written Rapsodie Espagnole (1908). Though both composers developed a love of Spanish music, pioneered by such as Manuel de Falla - a friend of both Frenchmen, Debussy had set foot in Spain only once, and briefly at that. While Ravel crossed the border many times, his mother a long-time resident of Madrid.

Yet it was Debussy who recreated the very essence of Spanish expression in music; his Ibéria should have been last on the program. Cast in three movements, his middle one, "Les parfums de la nuit" (Night's Fragrances) soars to the heights of "expressive impressionism." And Märkl skillfully brought all the composer's orchestral forces to the fore, as each was called for, most especially in the matchless transition to the third movement.

After experiencing Ibéria, I felt a drop in tension with the four-section Rapsodie; this was not Ravel at his best. Still, our conductor managed all its perorations with his usual skill--except that he rushed the final climactic chord progressions, making a mishmash of the final five-chord cadence. The complex conclusion of Ibéria also was rushed, resulting in a ragged ending therein. Perhaps Saturday went better... April 20-21; Hilbert Circle Theatre


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