My last NUVO five-star review appeared in the Nov. 12-19, 2008, issue. For me last Friday, guest conductor Carlo Rizzi proclaimed another one with his first few bars. Like certain other podium guests the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has brought to us in the past, Rizzi took our players to a level of near perfection in an all-Russian program. Along with Eric Stark's Indianapolis Symphonic Choir, Rizzi conducted the dazzlingly melodious "Polovtsian Dances" from Alexander Borodin's opera Prince Igor
, followed by Prokofiev's dramatic cantata Alexander Nevsky
- his recasting of music he originally scored for the film of that name. Mezzo Mariana Karpalova joined choir and orchestra for the cantata's Part 6 (of seven), "The Field of the Dead." Her vocalizing rendered this post-battle section more florid than lamenting. The choir, however, shone forth with excellent intonation and precision in both the Borodin and the Prokofiev. Rizzi's podium prowess impressed the most in the concluding Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 17 - a light-veined, melodious work (vying with the Borodin), despite its minor-key signature. Rizzi beautifully juxtaposed the counter themes in both the first and last movements, plus the march theme in the slow movement, with their rapid counterparts elsewhere, knitting this often fragmented work into a harmonious whole. This Friday and Saturday, we have the ISO's final 2008-'09 classical program - another all-Russian one. With a different conductor, will it deserve five stars also?