Indiana History Center: Feb. 17.
Mixing visual with musical elements in a new composition, especially when the one is abstract and the other somewhat avant-garde, usually challenges the “unprepared” viewer/listener, as distinguished from the student of contemporary art and music. Taking course(s) should not be a necessary prerequisite to enjoying any music (in the “old” days it wasn’t). That is why composer Neil Leonard’s (b. 1959) new composition, Dreaming of an Island — with projected video, given its debut performance last Saturday to open the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra’s fourth season-concert with ICO music director Kirk Trevor on the podium — offers a considerable challenge. Frankly, it takes more than a lengthy discussion by the composer about “what we’re going to hear and see” to provide a priori aesthetic help. To make both events meaningful, “observer” response to a work should come before its discussion/dissection. Leonard had his family and a few admirers present to enhance the audience response, which was warm and welcoming. Yet, Leonard’s entire panoply was unfathomable. Trevor followed with Aaron Copland’s Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano; it featured ICO principal clarinetist Eli Eban, who did an excellent job throughout. Rounding out the program was Trevor’s cohesive, energetic reading of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat (“Eroica”), Op. 55.