ISO Classical Series – final program 

4 stars - Hilbert Circle Theatre; Jun 3-5. A potpourri ended this season's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's 20-program classical series — with ISO associate conductor Sean Newhouse on the podium for his final indoor concert before moving onward to Boston. Dominating the program were two of our 2006 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis laureates, gold medalist Augustin Hadelich and sixth-place laureate Bella Hristova. But the two violinists' domination in program time was possibly exceeded by Newhouse's superlative job conducting Richard Strauss's first tone-poem masterpiece, Don Juan, Op. 20 (1888), played just after the break. With this one work, Strauss defined his mature style while launching the post-Romantic period with his expanded use of percussion. He hardly duplicated thereafter Don Juan's perfect melding of craft and inspiration. Newhouse and his players captured the lyric and heroic spirit of the doomed libertine, finally defined by two plucked E-unisons in the lower strings. The program began with a new work, Broken Crystal, by Ke-Chia Chen (b. 1979); she was present to accept the house's accolades. I found myself somewhat indifferent to the piece's generic, contemporary construction. Hristova began the laureate contribution with Henryk Wieniawski's superficial Polonaise brilliante in D, which our sixth-place laureate got the best of. She followed with Vaughan-Williams' more profound The Lark Ascending, Romance for Violin and Orchestra (1920), splendidly interpreted. Hristova summed up her appearance with Carmen, Fantasie brilliante by Jenö Hubay, the least known and least interesting compilation of tunes for violin and orchestra from Bizet's opera; better ones are by Pablo Sarasate and film composer Franz Waxman. Hristova nonetheless had the chops to make it at least a bit compelling. Hadelich played two pieces, the first, Samuel Barber's one and only Violin Concerto, Op. 14, with its lovely, lyric first two movements and its thrashing Finale's escape into Modernism. Then came Rachmaninoff's five-minute Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14, a wistfully nostalgic way to say goodbye to this ISO season. Especially considering its violin version was played by the finest gold medalist of the seven to which the IVCI has granted that award since its 1982 launch.

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