ISO Classical Series Program No. 15 

Three stars

Hilbert Circle Theatre; March 22-24.

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra music director Mario Venzago returned for the second week in a row to offer a two-work program — and what disparate works they were! Venzago began with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 4 in F Minor (1934), which the ISO last played in 1967 under Izler Solomon. Described as a violent, wrenching work and unfamiliar to me, I was expecting something on the order of the Shostakovich Fourth: an hour and 10 minutes of sheer, cacophonous boredom. Instead, I found the Vaughan Williams to be surprisingly melodious, its four movements comprising the length of a standard Romantic symphony, and with interesting orchestration emphasizing the brass and largely ignoring the percussion. I was won over. Following the break, British guest pianist John Lill joined Venzago in Brahms’ magnificent Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15. Other than the tempos being on the slow side and Lill’s tendency to pound his octaves and chords at the same high level in all three movements, the performance succeeded in revealing the vast panorama of drama inflected with lyric poignancy throughout Brahms’ earliest and one of his greatest large-scale works.

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