Monday, Nov. 4 saw one of the more intriguing concert programs ever scheduled by Kirk Trevor and his Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra in Clowes Hall. This second one in the ICO"s eight-concert "Season of Champions" matched a contemporary work with "great" Mozart in each of the program"s two halves - music of our time with utterly timeless music. The two living composers are women, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939) and Victoria Bond (b. 1945), with the latter"s Ancient Keys: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra featured as a debut performance - the work begun last June was completed in September. Paul Barnes, one of the most expressive musicians to guest with the ICO, played the solo part, both for the Bond work and for Mozart"s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K.453, with its sublime slow movement.
Paul Barnes was a guest pianist for the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra"s Nov. 4 concert.
Trevor began with Zwilich"s Concerto grosso (1985), a five-movement piece hearkening back to the Baroque era, even to using a harpsichord, though it was barely audible. Opening with a nod to Handel"s D Major Violin sonata and using its theme as a germ throughout, Zwilich"s middle movement, a Largo, more resembled the Shostakovich of his Fifth Symphony. Otherwise it was a satisfying, well-wrought piece. Barnes then appeared for the Mozart concerto. Hovering over the keyboard, Barnes undulated his arms, wrists and fingers in balletic fashion, playing over the keys before playing on them. His passage and scale work were delicate to a fault - sometimes being inaudible under the orchestra. But he shaped his audible sounds in all three movements beautifully, subtly, musically. The same held true for the Bond piece, inspired by a Greek Orthodox chant, which Barnes sang for the audience before playing it. Its free use of open intervals, implying a D minor - mostly without sounding the full chord - evoked the spaciousness Bond describes in her program notes. Like the backward look in the Zwilich piece, this one proved another instance of old wine poured into a new bottle with no spillage. If the new music we heard looks into the past, Mozart"s Symphony No. 38 in D, K.504 ("Prague") contains his most advanced, most complex writing. And with Mozart more than any other composer, complexity produces supreme beauty and profundity. Trevor and the ICO shared these treasures - as well as those in the other offerings - as fully as in any concert in their 17-season history.