Once again the recording mikes were set up in the Circle Theatre, via the Concord Music Group under the Telarc label. This time it was for the Indianapolis Symphony's opening work, Ernest Bloch's Trois poèms juifs (Three Jewish Poems) with guest conductor Jun Märkl. The CD, to be released in 2014, will also feature cellist Zuill Bailey with Märkl in two other works recorded here previously.
Friday's program once again confirmed that Märkl is among the best guest conductors to appear with the ISO, as he has done many times over the last decade. The orchestra played as precisely as his crisp baton motion suggested it should. Not only in the Bloch work, but in the two standards which followed: Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 488 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36. Guest soloist Ingrid Fliter returned to the ISO for the Mozart, having appeared here twice before.
This time, however, the Argentine-born pianist (of German heritage) displayed her high-order musicianship as well as her sparkling virtuosity. Mozart's No. 23 was written in 1786, just three weeks before he completed [the even greater] No. 24 in C Minor--all the while working to finish his great opera The Marriage of Figaro. No other composer has shown such a creative burst of achievement -- all three works standing at the epitome of musico/dramatic expression. A Major is one of Mozart's iridescent keys (compare his Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet) radiating joy on the surface but with an undertone of tragedy in the first movement, which comes to the surface in the wistful, F-sharp Minor Adagio, and transmutes to breathtaking lively spirits in the Finale.
Fliter's legato touch throughout K. 488 was well nigh perfect, her notes cascading up and down like a string of pearls. Her playing showed perfect balance with the strings, though Mozart's matchless writing for flute, bassoons, clarinets and horns occasionally got covered by the more-forward instruments. Still this was a performance to remember. As yet another young, top-notch pianist to visit Indy's environs, Fliter should return to play No. 24 (K. 491).
Beethoven's Second Symphony came equally under Märkl's precise control, along with a spirited tempo in the opening movement and lyric phrase shaping in the lovely Larghetto. The finale's extended coda is one of this work's hallmarks, and our conductor showed exemplary prowess in revealing all its subtle nuances. With the double basses retained this week in their forward, right-side position, the orchestra as a whole showed its best balance of the season.
The opening Bloch work, heavily textured, certainly sounded "Jewish," (think "klezmer") as was the aim. This product of 1913 carries the vestiges of post Romanticism, straying from and returning to a tonal center. The percussion had a prominent role in the third of the three poems. Märkl's work with it portends an excellent recording. Nov. 21-23; Hilbert Circle Theatre