Three and a half stars
Hilbert Circle Theatre, May 4-5
After over a month’s hiatus from its classical subscription concerts, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and its music director Mario Venzago returned last weekend and brought with them three vocalists and the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. In a program featuring Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), Op. 45, substitutions were noteworthy: In place of baritone Stephan Genz we heard Samuel Spade from the IU Music School. And subbing for the much-anticipated soprano Nicole Cabell was Carolina Castells, also from IU. They sung as soloists in the Requiem, while boy soprano Tarik Abdou soloed in the Bernstein — as scheduled. Despite many lovely moments, especially that opening in the second Chorus, the Requiem as a whole — Brahms’ longest creation, deriving from Old and New Testament scriptures the composer hand-selected for singing in German — comes across as thick textured and unevenly inspired. Except for the opening, wherein the chorus was all but inaudible, Venzago got a good balance between chorus and orchestra. And, for that matter, in the Bernstein as well. But the evening’s standout was young Abdou, projecting pure tones and audible Hebrew diction.