Indiana History Center; Jan. 23.
After several years of Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra specials entitled "ICO Conversations," some better than others, this programming "device" has yet to land on its feet with a consistency of both intent and execution. In the case of last Saturday, the execution of music and talk flowed well in its deliberate informality. The intent, however, proved - in my estimation - quite misleading. Guest conductor, James Fellenbaum extemporized well on the subject of pianist composers, of which there are a great many in the standard repertoire pantheon. There to assist him was 2009 American Pianist Association Fellow (one of two) Adam Golka, plus APA artistic director Joel Harrison. Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Bartók and Brahms were the pianist composers. Golka showed his astonishingly high pianistic level in a sonata movement by Beethoven, one of Rachmaninoff's many piano preludes, the first movement of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor with a good portion of the ICO, two Bartók Romanian dances and Brahms' famous Hungarian Dance No. 5. Fellenbaum, who did most of the talking, began his discourse advancing the concept of the effect of scoring on a given work, the Beethoven Sonata No. 9, Op. 14 No.1, in this case. The piano work came first, then the composer rescored it for string quartet at a time when he was steeped in that medium. He adapted the work's inner voicing to better coincide with four strings. It is not, as Fellenbaum suggested, more "natural" as a string quartet than as a piano sonata. But Fellenbaum's most misleading statement was "deciding" after hearing Chopin that he was "first" a pianist, "then" a composer. I would ask Fellenbaum how it is that Chopin's piano works are the most popular in the repertoire, and historically that Liszt was reputed to be the
piano phenom of Chopin's period.