The devil 


IVCI Laureate Series
Ronen Chamber Series
Indiana History Center
Feb. 20

If ever a presenter collaboration yielded an outstanding result, it was last Tuesday’s, between the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis Laureate chamber concerts and the Ronen Chamber Ensemble … and violinist Judith Ingolfsson. The 1998 IVCI gold medalist was engaged at the last minute to replace scheduled 1990 IVCI silver medalist Marco Rizzi, whose visa to travel here from Europe failed to be processed in time (a common post-Sept. 11 occurrence). Now on the U of Colorado faculty at Boulder, Ingolfsson — an Icelandic native — stepped in and effectively dominated the proceedings in works of Mozart, Schumann and Stravinsky.

First and foremost, the IVCI and Ronens crossed paths to produce Stravinsky’s sui generis creation, L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale), to be “spoken, danced and played.” Defying categorization, the 1918 work is cast for three actors and eight instrumentalists — and a dancer, if there’s room. (In the Indiana History Center’s Basile Theater, there wasn’t.) Featured in the speaking parts were veteran actors Rob Johansen as the devil, Jen Johansen as the narrator and Ben Tebbe as the soldier. The musicians consisted of violinist Ingolfsson, clarinetist David Bellman, bassoonist Matthew Karr, trumpeter Robert Wood, trombonist Blake Schlabach, doublebassist Ju-Fang Liu, percussionist Jack Brennan and conductor Paul Krasnovsky.

A soldier walking home with his cheap violin encounters the devil in disguise, so the narration goes, to a thumping march rhythm. The devil convinces him to exchange his fiddle for a magic book “filled with wonders.” And so the tale goes, through many perorations, the narrator melding with the soldier and his tempter. Into this allegoric mix, Stravinsky pours music captivatingly original for its time, all its parts titled, all its intricacies woven into carrying our protagonist to his ultimate doom.

Along the way, we hear Ingolfsson, sometimes dominant, as in the three connected dances: Tango, Waltz and Ragtime; sometimes in the background, as in the Chorale (one of the most enchanting ones from the early 20th century). But always her tone and her timbres carried just the right insouciance to join convincingly in the battle for the soldier’s soul. Rob Johansen inflected his devil-role to varied perfection, even once speaking (while somewhat hidden) for Jen Johansen, in stentorian tones while she lip synched. Krasnovsky held his players to incisive precision throughout, Brennan’s timpani ominously taking over, louder and louder at the end, as the devil departed, soldier in hand.

Ingolfsson joined cellist Ingrid Fischer-Bellman and pianist Sylvia Patterson-Scott to open the program with the Piano Trio in C, K. 548, of Mozart — one of the Austrian master’s finest. Ingolfsson and Scott then continued with Schumann’s late-written Violin Sonata in A Minor, Op. 105. In both, the violinist confirmed her status among the top laureates in the IVCI’s history. But … there is only one L’Histoire du soldat, and Ingolfsson was “there” for it.


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