ISO Classical Series Program concert review 

A tumultuous ovation marked the end of the 20th and final 2008-'09 Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra classical concert program -- mainly because the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition naturally generates excitement with its majestically concluding "picture," "The Great Gate of Kiev." Nonetheless, Spanish guest conductor Juanjo Mena offered a generally sterling performance of this great work, concluding an evening of repertoire standards. Especially notable was the outstanding tuba playing of ISO principal Anthony Kniffen in "Bydlo" (or "The Ox Cart") and the trumpet work of ISO principal Marvin Perry in "Samuel Goldberg and Schmuyle." Mena began the program with a well conceived, well executed Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy, its love theme one of the composer's great melodies. The ensuing Prokofiev Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 25 ("Classical") clearly demonstrated that Mena needed more rehearsal time: Ensemble work was ragged throughout, with the violins not only out of sync, but occasionally even off pitch in the first movement -- definitely below their par. But for this work, the concert would have deserved four stars. The remaining piece, a Stravinsky trifle entitled Scherzo à la russe (1944), gave us a five-minute reminder of his great ballet music, Pétrouchka (1911), without a true beginning or ending. Hope to see you back here at the Circle Theatre again this September.

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