Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 

Mario Venzago returns and puts Beethoven and Bruckner together in a two-work program. Whatever factored into this combo last weekend, it worked: The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra crowds were up considerably from recent weeks, and heavily applauded both offerings. This no doubt greatly pleased our music director, being a lover of both the great Classical innovator and the Romantic savant. The first half saw Jean Louis Steuerman joining Venzago in the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat (“Emperor”), Op. 73, the longest, grandest piano concerto thus far written — though musically less dense than several Mozart concertos, as well as Beethoven’s Fourth in G. Venzago had his forces punching out nimble, mostly razor sharp attacks, lending a well controlled dynamic curve to the majestic material. Steuerman (a native of Rio de Janeiro) seemed less inclined to follow Venzago’s drive while making slips along the way. The slow movement needed more expressivity than either conductor or pianist gave it. Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor (1891 version) straddles an unhappy middle between the stasis of more typically mature Bruckner and the forward drive of most other Romantic symphonists. Thus we had harmony and modulation in search of more than melodic pinpricks — and at a faster tempo than what we usually get through Bruckner’s colorful instrumentation. Venzago, as always, pulled out everything that was there.

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