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Review: ICO features guitar music 

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click to enlarge Guitarist Marco Sartor
  • Guitarist Marco Sartor

Indy's resident chamber orchestra went south of the border Saturday evening to pick up its guest soloist, its guest podium artist and two of the four works presented. The two "Latino" offerings were both composed by Brazilians, the famous Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) and the virtually unknown Claudio Santoro (1919-1989). Their works occupied the middle of the program's bookends, Vivaldi's Concerto in D for Guitar and six strings and Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 in F. Op. 93.

The Vivaldi, an arrangement of a concerto for lute, fits perfectly with its first cousin, the guitar. Guitarist Marco Sartor (a native of Uruguay and a guitar competition prizewinner) used amplification for bringing up his instrument's sound to blend well with the strings--two violins, two violas, one cello and one bass. Whether electronically or acoustically caused, Marco's instrument emphasized the lower pitches, providing a dull luster rather than the brighter, "picky" timbre we usually expect. In any case, both soloist and conductor Gil Jardim (from São Paulo, Brazil) crisply handled Vivaldi's three brief movements, stylistically sounding more Classical than Baroque.

The Villa-Lobos Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (1951) offered a bit more challenge with its larger string complement and one each of the standard woodwinds and brass. Written in an accessible style, the concerto is the most popular of the composer's works (at least north of the border). Sartor began the third of its three movements with an extended solo or cadenza, occupying nearly half the movement's length, revealing his skill at handling complex rhythmic lines. Otherwise his blend with the enlarged orchestra remained nicely balanced.

Santoro's Porteio for String Orchestra (1954) became a five-minute interlude between the Vivaldi and the Villa-Lobos. A slight "aperitif" with bluesy premonitions, the massed strings carried the ostinato (supporting line) while a solo violin played the principal line. Not being a technical challenge, the conductor and players did what was expected of them.

A true masterwork, Beethoven's Eighth called for the most interpretive prowess from our orchestral forces -- and got it. Jardim took what is called a "modern" tempo throughout each of the four movements, and that means fast, with the exception that he slowed a little for the finale. Nonetheless, he demonstrated masterful conducting, bringing each of his players' sections into near absolute precision. The ICO played this familiar chestnut about as well as it has ever played anything. March 15; Indiana History Center

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