ISO announces 2009-2010 Classical season 

Hilbert Circle Theatre

Mario Venzago — music director

Jack Everly — pops director

Sean Newhouse — associate conductor

Raymond Leppard — conductor laureate

The injuries hitting most organizations in this time of recession have certainly not excluded the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, although we have seemingly fared better than most major orchestras in the country. For example, Columbus, our "sister" city in Ohio, has had no Columbus Symphony season whatever in 2008-'09. Another big-time ensemble - the Cleveland Orchestra - is trying to pay off a long-term debt, while contending with a major local issue involving the dismissal of Don Rosenberg as the orchestra's veteran critic for the daily Cleveland Plain Dealer. This was ostensibly because he seemingly trashed Cleveland's music director, Franz Welser-Möst, nearly every time the latter conducted. It's made national news in symphony circles, and was even commented on with a supplied link to the whole story by the Indianapolis Business Journal's arts persona Lou Harry (who mistakenly renamed it the "Cleveland Symphony Orchestra") as an entry in his blog.

A bit of this-style intrigue is shared by the ISO: a reported lay-off of eight staff people - including Mario Venzago's personal assistant, Cassie Goldstein; some contention between Venzago and ISO President and CEO Simon Crookall, reportedly having to do in part with Venzago's loss of Goldstein; and the sudden, ignominious retirement of principal cellist Arkady Orlovsky, announced after-the-fact only in a brief program-booklet insert. (I'm told that was the way he wanted it.)

As was done last year, the Opening Night Gala has been absorbed into the Opening Weekend: Classical Program No. 1, with the Gala festivities on a Saturday night - one evening after Friday's true opening night. Here is the 20-concert Classical season:

Program No. 1 Opening Weekend: Salute to America!

Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 26, 6 p.m. Gala Night

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Gabriela Montero, Piano

F. Murray Abraham, Narrator

BARBER Symphony No. 1

JOHN WILLIAMS Air and Simple Gifts

COPLAND Lincoln Portrait

BERNSTEIN Divertimento for Orchestra

GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue<

JOHN ADAMS Short Ride in a Fast Machine

Many will recall that F. Murray Abraham portrayed Antonio Salieri in the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie Amadeus. Clearly this is a 20th century program, with Rhapsody in Blue being repeated from this current season - as the crowd magnet. As for the other offerings, the Copland and the Barber may have some drawing power as well.

Program No. 2 Mendelssohn's 200th Birthday Celebration

Thursday, Oct. 8, 11 a.m.*

Friday, Oct. 9, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 10, 5:30 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Alexander Kerr, Violin

CLAUDE BAKER Aus Schwanengesang (Not Performed Thurs. 11 a.m.)

MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto in E Minor

MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 5 in D ("Reformation")

The asterisk indicates the first Coffee Concert, wherein Claude Baker will be omitted from Thursday and heard only in the Friday-Saturday programs, to keep the morning program intermission-less and under an hour and a half. Baker, born in 1948 in North Carolina, is a contemporary composer who's been represented here in the past. The two Mendelssohn works are repertoire standards, with Alex Kerr making his solo debut in the violin concerto as the ISO's associate concertmaster. The "Reformation" Symphony is one of Mendelssohn's best.

Program No. 3 Garrick Ohlsson Plays Chopin Second Piano Concerto

Friday, Oct.16, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Garrick Ohlsson, Piano

LISZT Les Préludes

LISZT Orpheus

LISZT Mephisto Waltz (No. 1)

OFFENBACH Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld

CHOPIN Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor

A veteran pianist with many ISO appearances, Garrick Ohlsson will be welcomed back for Chopin No. 2. This is the first instance I can recall in which two Liszt symphonic poems will be played back-to-back, so to speak. Of the 12 Liszt wrote, only Les Préludes has managed to endure as a repertoire standard while Orpheus is somewhere on the fringe. His Mephisto Waltz No. 1 was written as a solo piano piece, but is undoubtedly scored here for piano and orchestra. One looks for Ohlsson to dazzle us with this one.

Program No. 4 Saint-Saëns' "Organ Symphony"

Friday, Oct. 23, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 24, 8 p.m.

Thierry Fischer, Conductor

Stewart Goodyear, Piano

STRAVINSKY Symphony in Three Movements

RAVEL Piano Concerto in G

SAINT-SAËNS Symphony No. 3 in C Minor ("Organ Symphony")

A brand new guest conductor and soloist appear performing three standards, with the Stravinsky not quite a warhorse, but sounding a bit like a latter-day (1945) Rite of Spring. Saint-Saëns "Organ Symphony" was postponed from last year because the Circle Theatre's donated theater organ suffered installation delays, and at this writing is still not ready to be used. We shall assume it will be by this October as that was the reason for this work's programming and rescheduling earlier this current season.

Program No. 5 Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony

Thursday, Nov. 5, 11 a.m.*

Friday, Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov.7, 7:30 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Time for Three

MOZART Symphony No. 41 in C ("Jupiter")

JANACEK Sinfonietta (Not Performed Thursday, 11 a.m.)


We welcome the return of Jennifer Higdon, who has dazzled our audiences with new works as few contemporaries do these days. I have no data on the work above, but I'm sure it will find its audience as her previous works have. Venzago's interpretation of Mozart's "Jupiter" is most unusual, as gleaned from his last account, with many tempo variations. But it worked, and spoke to me. As he has often changed his interpretive approach with the Classics, what will he do for us this time??

Program No. 6 Joshua Bell Returns

Friday, Nov. 13, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 14, 5:30 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Joshua Bell, Violin

BERLIOZ Three Excerpts from The Damnation of Faust

RAVEL Tzigane (Concert Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra)

MASSENET "Méditation" (for Violin and Orchestra) from the opera Thaïs

R.STRAUSS Suite from Der Rosenkavalier (1945 version)

BRUCH Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra

Now pushing 40, Indiana's own Joshua Bell remains a solid marquee violin player of worldwide fame. He'll fill the house playing three works in this program: the Ravel (with an extended opening solo), the Massenet (his "Méditation" in an arrangement for violin and orchestra) and the Bruch Scottish Fantasy. Venzago always does Strauss exceptionally well, so that one looks forward to the same caliber with the Rosenkavalier Suite.

Program No. 7 Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto

Thursday, Jan. 7, 11 a.m.*

Friday, Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.

Andrew Litton, Conductor

Vadim Gluzman, Violin

TCHAIKOVSKY Coronation March (Not Performed Thursday, 11 a.m.)

TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto in D

PROKOFIEV Selections from Romeo and Juliet

Andrew Litton has always been one of the more popular guest conductors, as well as one of the best. The Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is among the most difficult in the standard repertoire. We'll see what Gluzman can do with it. This program is a bit ironic in that Tchaikovsky's own Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy almost eclipses the Prokofiev ballet music in popularity, while the Prokofiev remains one of his best scores.

Program No. 8 Yuja Wang Plays Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto

Friday, Jan. 22, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 23, 5:30 p.m.

Cornelius Meister, Conductor

Yuja Wang, Piano

BEETHOVEN Overture to Fidelio (Op. 72c )

RACHMANINOFF Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor

MENDELSSOHN Symphony No. 4 in A ("Italian")

A program of standards features a new guest conductor and soloist. Wang will have to go some to equal Adam Golka's recent account of Rach 3 in the American Pianists Association Finals (See NUVO, April 8-15 or click on The Beethoven Overture is the last of four he wrote for his only opera - earlier named Leonore. The first three overtures, also concert favorites, are listed as Leonore Nos. 1, 2 and 3. The "Italian" Symphony is Mendelssohn's best, overall, and is replete with many great recorded performances for Meister to compete with.

Program No. 9 A Musical Feast — Dvorák and Walton

Friday, Jan. 29, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 30, 8 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Hugh Russell, Baritone

Indianapolis Symphonic Choir

DVORÁK Symphony No. 7 in D Minor

WALTON Belshazzar's Feast

Venzago returns to tackle one of Dvorák's finest symphonies, written in a very Brahmsian style but with the Bohemian element always backing it up. Walton's Belshazzar's Feast features the first season appearance of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, along with baritone Hugh Russell - and is among Walton's better known works.

Program No. 10 Christian Tetzlaff Plays Brahms Violin Concerto

Thursday, Feb. 4, 11 a.m.*

Friday, Feb. 5, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 6, 5:30 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Christian Tetzlaff, Violin

SCHUMANN Symphony No. 3 in E-flat ("Rhenish") (Mvts. I, IV & V Performed Thursday, 11 a.m.)

BRAHMS Violin Concerto in D

One of the top violinists touring today, Chistian Tetzlaff joins Venzago in one of the most famous four violin concertos in the repertoire (the others: Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky - the latter two already scheduled above). Of Schumann's four symphonies, the "Rhenish" was the last written, with the name referring to the composer's then current residence in Düsseldorf-on-the-Rhine. Like Beethoven's Pastorale" Symphony, it contains an unusual five movements.

Program No. 11 The Troika — Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev

Friday, Feb. 19, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 20, 8 p.m.

Larry Rachleff, Conductor

Terrence Wilson, Piano


RACHMANINOFF Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

PROKOFIEV Symphony No. 5 in B-flat

Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony (out of seven) is as popular as Shostakovich's Fifth (out of 15). Written in 1934, the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody is among the last-written works one could dub purely Romantic. I haven't heard Terrence Wilson, that I can recall, so as to his playing ... we'll see. The Tchaikovsky, admittedly popular, is an overwrought march filled with a repetitive, drooping figure that cloys before it's finished. Good that it appears first.

Program No. 12 Stephen Hough Plays Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto

Thursday, March 4, 11 a.m.*

Friday, March 5, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 6, 7:30 p.m.

James Gaffigan, Conductor

Stephen Hough, Piano

ROSSINI Semiramide Overture (Not Performed Thursday, 11 a.m.)

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2 in D

TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor

The most popular piano concerto in the world had its world premiere in Boston and not Russia. Critics chewed it up, while the public loved it (anything different these days??). Veteran British pianist Stephen Hough ("Huff") should make it come alive again.

Program No. 13 Shostakovich's Eleventh Symphony

Friday, March 12, 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 13, 5:30 p.m.

Hannu Lintu, Conductor

Corey Cerovsek, Violin

MUSSORGSKY Sunrise over the Moscow River

STRAVINSKY Violin Concerto in D

SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 11 ("The Year 1905")

Possibly Shostakovich's next most popular symphony to that of No. 5, it's part of an all-Russian program. This includes the insufficiently performed Stravinsky Violin Concerto - a delightful, light-weight, slightly satiric work appearing at the height of his neo-Classical period. Here we have another successful Hoosier fiddler, Corey Cervosek, who was last here at the beginning of Venzago's full-season tenure in 2003-'04.

Program No. 14 Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2

Thursday, April 8, 11 a.m.*

Friday, April 9, 8 p.m.

Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m.

Mark Wigglesworth, Conductor

Leila Josefowicz, Violin

SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concerto No. 1 (Not Performed Thursday. 11 a.m.)

RACHMANINOFF Symphony No. 2 in E Minor

Violinist Leila Josefowicz, last here in 2007 and previously in 2005, performs admirably, delivering a "velvet" sound. With Symphony No. 2, Rachmaninoff carries on a Tchaikovsky tradition in style, harmonies and lovely themes, though it might be more accurate to say that Rachmaninoff clothes his themes in Tchaikovskian passage-work and Tchaikovskian climaxes - the last purely Romantic symphony-of-stature to be written, and also one of the longest, even when using some first-movement cuts.

Program No. 15 Dvorák's "New World" Symphony

Friday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 17, 7:30 p.m.

Krzysztof Urbanski, Conductor

Dejan Lazic, Piano


MOZART Piano Concerto No. 23 in A

DVORÁK Symphony No. 9 in E Minor ("From the New World")

Coupling Mozart's No. 23 with the Dvorák makes for a nice contrast between one of the Classical era's greatest works and one of the Romantic's most popular. What the soloists will do with the combination of course remains unknown.

Program No. 16 Waves & Echoes featuring Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade"

Thursday, April 29, 11 a.m.*

Friday, April 30, 8 p.m.

Saturday, May 1, 5:30 p.m.

Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Conductor

Daniel Mueller-Schott, Cello (ISO debut)

ENRIQUE SORO Danza Fantastica (Not Performed Thursday, 11 a.m.)

OSVALDO GOLIJOV Mariel (Not Performed Thursday, 11 a.m.)

SAINT-SAËNS Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Scheherazade (Symphonic Suite)

Two unknown guests paired with two unknown composers will be redeemed, should they have to be, with two repertoire standards. While the Saint-Saëns is fine in all respects, Scheherazade is simply too often performed, when Rimsky offers us another exotic four-movement work that gets routinely overlooked in concert programming. I refer to his Antar Symphony, which he worked at revising and improving all his life. Claude Debussy pronounced it his greatest orchestral work, and many recordings have testified to its beauty, with a theme as haunting as Scheherazade's transformed throughout its four movements. Next time Scheherazade is considered for programming, I'd recommend taking a close look at Antar to replace it, at least this once.

Program No. 17 Brahms' Second Symphony

Friday, May 7, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 8, 7:30 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Marc-André Hamelin, Piano

SAINT-SAËNS Africa in G minor (Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra)

LISZT Piano Concerto No. 2 in A

BRAHMS Symphony No. 2 in D

Saint-Saëns' Africa should not be confused with his Piano Concerto No. 5, which was written in Africa and titled "The Egyptian" in 1896. Africa, a real fringe work, came from 1891, and I've never heard it, though it's been recorded. The Liszt No. 2 is considerably inferior to his No. 1 in E-flat - the former filled with Lisztian "histrionics." Whereas the Brahms needs no introduction as one of his four symphonic repertoire standards.

Program No. 18 James Beckel World Premiere and Stars of the ISO

Friday, May 14, 8 p.m.

Saturday, May 15, 8 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Zach De Pue, Violin

Robert Danforth, Horn Richard Graef, Horn

Jerry Montgomery, Horn Jill Boaz, Horn

Julie Beckel, Horn

MOZART Symphony No. 38 in D ("Prague")

JAMES BECKEL In the Mind's Eye: Images for Horns and Orchestra (performance debut)

WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor

STRAVINSKY Suite from The Firebird (1919 version)

In one of the most interesting of the season's programs, several ISO players get to show off their stuff, five in a piece by another ISO player, performed for the first time. The above named hornists, including Julie Beckel, play Julie's father's new piece from downstage while principal trombonist James Beckel plays and hears his work from the trombone section upstage. Beckel's works have been among the most accessible new music of anyone's, comparing favorably with Jennifer Higdon in that capacity. Then we have Zach de Pue in the very Romantic Wieniawski Violin Concerto. Much to Stravinsky's chagrin when alive, his early Firebird Suite is a perennial favorite. But Mozart exceeds them all in his "Prague" Symphony: the greatest, most complex, most beautiful symphony from the 18th century. It should end symphony programs, even with its reduced orchestra.

Program No. 19 Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony

Friday, May 21, 8 p.m.

Saturday, May 22, 5:30 p.m.

Mario Venzago, Conductor

Indianapolis Symphonic Choir

Karina Gauvin, Soprano

Susanne Mentzer, Mezzo-Soprano

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection")

For Mahlerites, it's seventh heaven to have the ISO program any Mahler symphony. The "Resurrection" was a favorite of former ISO music director John Nelson, who conducted it after his final season with the orchestra as a special. Venzago previously did a good job with the Mahler Fifth and Seventh, so we should expect the same this time. I find that the real beauty of No. 2 is in its final pages when the Choir enters (it has a very small part in this long work). Its first movement is a bore, but it seems to get better as it progresses. This from a non-Mahlerite.

Program No. 20 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis Laureates In Concert

Thursday, June 3, 11 a.m.*

Friday, June 4, 8 p.m.

Saturday, June 5, 8 p.m.

Sean Newhouse, Conductor

Bella Hristova, Violin

Augustin Hadelich, Violin

BARBER Overture to The School for Scandal

WIENIAWSKI Polonaise Brillante No. 1 (Not Performed Thurs. 11 a.m.)

VAUGHAN WILIAMS The Lark Ascending

HUBAY Carmen — Fantaisie Brillante

R. STRAUSS Don Juan (Not Performed Thursday, 11 a.m.)

BARBER Violin Concerto

RACHMANINOFF Vocalise (Not Performed Thusday, 11 a.m.)

Sean Newhouse takes over for the season finale with a potpourri of short pieces from the late 19th and 20th centuries. A highlight of this concert is the appearance of 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis gold medalist Augustin Hadelich, joined by 2006 sixth-place laureate Bella Hristova. At this point, I don't know who is playing what, as the ISO's write-up on its season release has not been forthcoming as yet.

For all the other series the ISO presents over the period discussed above, please click on .


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