A great program mixing two repertoire standards with a contemporary piece becomes greater when played with the distinction Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra music director Kirk Trevor gave it Saturday evening, as he has often done in the past. Now beginning its 28th season as a 33-piece professional ensemble, the ICO enjoyed an auspicious opening concert at its home venue, the IHC's Basile Theater. Joining Trevor in this exceptional two hours was prodigal violinist Caroline Goulding. The young lady astonished one and all with her heavily nuanced reading of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, in my view the finest of that genre from the 19th century.
Goulding's nuances were those of tempo, tone and dynamics. I've never heard such a well-controlled variation in the shaping of Op. 64, not only as a display vehicle, but as a profoundly moving musical creation. Her virtuosic passage work grew from a whisper to being the dominant instrument on stage--and back again. She varied her bowing and fingerwork from the opulently wide singing tones of the slow movement to playing nearly white at the ends of scale runs. She and Trevor's players nudged all the tempos faster and slower to outright pauses during the quieter sections. Goulding created the effect of a heartfelt interpretive view of this work as heard through her own ears.
What she did, she did faultlessly, but was that what Mendelssohn wanted? Was that his vision? We don't know and of course we'll never know, but her "portrait" is the most individual one I've ever heard from a great--or potentially great--violinist. I didn't care for her repeated "gliding" off a note, then jumping to the next higher or lower one called for, a mannerism most string players have gotten away from. Otherwise it was a performance to remember.
Trevor opened his concert with a ten-minute contemporary piece by Michael Torke, The Lucent Variations (1998). After hearing at least two other Torke works played by the (now locked out) ISO, I find that he has a command of a number of contemporary styles. This one wasn't especially flattering. A repetitiously rhythmic study in minmalistic tonality, not varying in key signtatures beyond A to D, Lucent somewhat hearkens back to Aaron Copland -- not at his most inventive. Trevor nonetheless held his players together with excellent precision.
Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 in B-flat, Op. 60, closed the program while showing Trevor and his forces at their absolute best. Crisp, precise, articulate and energetic well describe the group's handling throughout each of the four movements. This was the finest performance of a Classical-era symphony Trevor has given us in quite a while. Even the "notorious" open bassoon figure at the fourth movement's recap went flawlessly. Sept. 29; Indiana History Center