On a bad weather night I was pleased to see the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts so well filled to witness the second Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Masterworks program, which introduced us to the very talented Israeli cellist Inbal Segev. The concert also featured guest conductor Kelly Kuo. Erich Korngold, Dimitry Shostakovich and Beethoven (who needs no first-name introduction) furnished the three works presented. Prior to the break Segev joined Kuo for an excellent reading of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat, Op. 107.
Of course the Soviet composer only paid lip service to the key of E-flat, his writing a ramble through all key signatures from almost one note, one chord to the next. Its outer movements are a bit snarky, while the middle movement, a moderato, carries the plaintiveness and despair so closely associated with a man paranoid over his relation with the Soviet state. His use of the piccolo in conveying this mood is all but a Shostakovich trademark.
Segev projected a warm, almost sweet tone on her 1673 Ruggieri cello, which somewhat compensated for the piece's dour mood. This occasionally got her covered by the orchestra, but only slightly. She certainly managed all the piece's virtuosic demands with precision and seeming effortlessness. Kuo had his small orchestra in lock step with his soloist. It was a good performance of a mediocre work.
Kuo began his program with Korngold's Dances in the Old Style (1919). Woodwinds, solo and in groups, held sway over the material at the start, very much akin to his film scores and concert pieces. This evolved into a sequence of dialogs between the strings and winds, with the whole piece running less than ten minutes.
Following intermission Kuo returned to conduct the evening's warhorse, Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36. With the fewer strings available to compete with the fixed number of winds and brass, the latter groups produced a more distinctive color than when hearing the work played by a full-sized symphony. Kuo easily had his forces maintain the vaunted reputation they've gained under their former music director Kirk Trevor and continued under their new one, Matthew Kraemer. Nov. 21