Beethoven ends 'early' 

ISO Classical Series Program No. 10
Hilbert Circle Theatre
Feb. 2-3

It may be considered ironic, or not, for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra to end their month-long Midwinter Beethoven Festival series with Beethoven’s earliest orchestral work to be published with an opus number. His Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 19 came from 1793 — from a 23-year old Beethoven. A delay in its publication allowed his No. 1, from 1795, to be published first as Op. 15. Except for its formal layout, No. 2 derives little from Mozart’s many mature concertos, nor is it their equal. But it does purvey Beethoven’s own stylistic stamp, and for most music lovers, that is sufficient.

Young guest soloist Boris Giltburg was on the keyboard for the Beethoven while guest conductor Vassily Sinaisky, returning here from last season, assumed the podium. Both are Russian-born. Following the traditionally lengthy orchestral introduction, Giltburg launched into Beethoven’s piano writing with a well-articulated technique — every note heard and fitting within context, except for some occasional steeliness. In this appearance, Sinaisky held his players nicely in sync with the pianist throughout the concerto’s three movements (he did not last season). Interpretively, this was a routine performance, with some occasional inflection in the middle movement, an adagio.

Later-Beethoven usually means better Beethoven, and his Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72a from 1806 is an excellent example. Of the four overtures the composer ended up writing for his only opera, Fidelio, the Leonore No. 3 is the tautest, most dramatic, not only of the four, but of practically any overture by anyone you care to name. Sinaisky began the program with it, and — with that ominous C major introduction, the A-flat “second subject” (woodwinds) revealed ahead of its normal place in a sonata-form structure, the heroic main theme, the second theme (horns this time) now in E-flat, the intense development interrupted by ISO principal Marvin Perry’s off-stage trumpet call, the recap and the stirring coda — he had his players delivering on that drama and tautness.

Sinaisky ended the program with a big change of pace: the Shostakovich Symphony No. 6, Op. 53 — a rather short, three-movement work, those movements easily described as slow/fast/faster. Written in 1939, just before the Soviet involvement in WWII, the work begins with one of the composer’s bleakest of largos, perhaps less compelling than the Largo from his Fifth Symphony of two years earlier (which the ISO played last fall), but nonetheless drawing a programmatic inference regarding artistic life in the Soviet Union.

The second movement, a lively triple-meter scherzo, introduces Shostakovich’s well-known, bitingly satiric element, brilliantly orchestrated. Then we have the Finale, dominated by a Shostakovich trademark: a continuously galloping rhythm right out of Rossini’s William Tell Overture Finale. There is satire here as well, even in the ostensibly triumphal final chords. Showing an in-depth understanding of his fellow countryman, Sinaisky, overall, impressed considerably more than in his appearance last season.

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