Review: Child prodigy featured with the ICO 

click to enlarge Umi Garrett stole the show in the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra's 27th season opener Saturday at the Indiana History Center.
  • Umi Garrett stole the show in the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra's 27th season opener Saturday at the Indiana History Center.
4 stars

Indiana History Center; conductor Kirk Trevor; Sept. 17

I can't recall ever witnessing a ten-year-old pianist play with the technical assurance and innate musicality equal to Umi Garrett. A slip of a girl saunters onto the stage wearing high heels (only to allow her feet to reach the pedals), sits on a special bench which is a perfect compromise for where her hands and feet need to go, and delivers an amazing performance of Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 488." With Kirk Trevor on the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra's brand-new podium, this was a concert to remember.

Among the finest of Mozart's later "Viennese" concertos, K. 488's surface iridescence is underlaid by a yearning wistfulness in its opening two movements that only that composer could conjure - to be followed by as sparkling a tour-de-force Finale as only that composer could create. Following the orchestral intro, Garrett pounced on the opening theme as though she owned it, sailing through her beautifully integrated part with perfect finger work, her notes cascading like a string of pearls. The orchestra did a bit less well; in the first movement an obvious clarinet entrance was completely missed at the development section's opening (like No. 22 in E-flat, K. 482, this concerto substituted a clarinet pair for two oboes, the former recently added instruments to symphonic works).

To show her pianistic technique was not limited by writing from Mozart's era, Garrett played as an encore Liszt's note-dazzling "Dance of the Gnomes" ("Gnomenreigen"), showing her ability to compete with most any touring adult (she plays this piece on YouTube at age 8!) Her only age-related limitation was that she possessed a limited dynamic range. But in a few years, she'll be able play as soft or as loud as anybody, with larger hands and longer arms. Having a talent this great this early, one wonders just where her abilities as an adult will take her.

Trevor began his program with Beethoven's well-known Egmont Overture, Op. 84. The impassioned F-Minor piece gives way to a triumphal conclusion. For some reason, this work seemed excessively dry in the IHC's Basile Theater acoustic. Otherwise Trevor gave us a routinely good account.

Following the break, we heard an excellent reading of Debussy's introduction to the era of Impressionism: Prélude à l'après-mid d'un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, 1894). Flutist Anne Reynolds gave us lovely solo playing throughout, and the orchestra's accompanying languidness was telling.

To conclude the ICO's season inaugural program, Trevor gave us Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. 25 (1917), otherwise known as the "Classical Symphony." Composed with small-scale forces, leaner harmonic textures and with a brevity outdoing the late symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, this less-than-20-minute, four-movement work enjoys as great a public acceptance as any of the composer's later works - when he returned to the Soviet Union and conformed to the "acceptable" style of Stalin's regime. (Interestingly Prokofiev and Stalin died reportedly "within minutes of each other," on March 5, 1953.)

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