Hilbert Circle Theatre; Feb. 19-20.
Since the new year began, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has given us two all-Russian programs, both featuring Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. To those two highly esteemed names, last weekend added Rachmaninoff, already represented separately - in late January - with his third piano concerto. Larry Rachleff returned to the ISO podium to give us an outstanding example of his baton prowess. He opened with Tchaikovsky's popular pot-boiler, Marche slave
in B-flat, Op. 31. Yes, it's noisy, banal-in-places and repetitive, but its composer's steadfast melodic gift wins the day for the symphony-goer. Rachleff filled it with verve and precision. Next came yet another top tiered pianist for Rachmaninoff's last all-Romantic work: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
, Op. 43 (1934) - the theme being the Italian composer's 24th Violin Caprice, which we expect to hear often in next September's Indy Violin Competition. Pianist Terrence Wilson, in his 30s, dazzled us with his somewhat unique view of these variations, without crossing into mannerism. Orchestra and piano dovetailed throughout, sailing through the 18th variation - with the equally famous, more jubilant melody resulting from Rachmaninoff's turning the Paganini theme upside-down - past the "Dies Irae" quotes near the end. We can add Wilson to a number of exceptional guest pianists heard locally this season. Rachleff ended with Prokofiev's Fifth (Symphony No. 5 in B-flat, Op. 100). Written during WWII, the composer must have anticipated the war's favorable (to the Soviets) conclusion, as it gleams with a celebratory mood in a modernist tinged, post-Romantic style. Rachleff gave us well balanced, articulate ensemble work throughout its four movements.