The Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 19 is Beethoven's first orchestral work to be published. A delay in its publication explains its higher opus number and its appearance after his Piano Concerto No. 1, which shows a greater maturity than his Op. 19. Still, any opus number attached to a Bonn master composition cannot be ignored: From his op. 1 to his op. 135 lay a parade of masterworks worthy of continual performance, some more worthy than others.
All this by way of introducing the opening concert of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Masterworks series, with pianist Christopher O'Riley at the keyboard for Op. 19 and ICO music director Matthew Kraemer on the podium. As the radio host of NPR program "From the Top," O'Riley offers many musical genres played by guest artists. His account of Op. 19 revealed a smooth technique, a well controlled legato while coalescing with the orchestra throughout.
Opening with Johann Strauss Jr.'s brief Perpetuum Mobile Polka, Kraemer eased his way into the much more lengthy Charivari by Heinz Karl Gruber (b. 1943), who used a motif from the Strauss work in a theme and variations format. Gruber's "perpetuum mobile" seemed static and "perpetual" and thus came across as too long by half. Notwithstanding the caveat, Kraemer led his forces with the precision called for.
The concert ended with Schubert's Symphony No. 2 in B-flat, D. 125, taking its cue -- key signature and genre number -- from the Beethoven. Written in 1815 when he was 17, Schubert tended to stretch his thematic material beyond the light-veined lyricism suggested in each movement. But the symphony can be enjoyed for its simple themes and driving rhythms. As above, Kraemer led his forces with the precision called for. Oct. 8