Six works on a symphony program mean one thing for sure:
Most will be short. In Friday's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
concert, the first five happened
before intermission, with Igor Stravinsky's (1882-1971) Pétrouchka (1947 revision) owning the second half.
Hans Graf, one
of our better past podium guests, acquitted himself less well in this second of
the young composer's great ballet triptych (The
Firebird , Pétrouchka ,
The Rite of Spring ).
Though filled with energy and forward propulsion, together
with some excellent solo work (e.g. principal flutist Karen Moratz), there were
moments in a few places where the ensemble seemed almost unglued, especially among
During the rapidly repeating timpani note connecting "The
Shrovetide Fair" with "Pétrouchka's Cell," I heard an additional bar of music I
don't believe Stravinsky wrote, which was quickly corrected after more timpani.
Graf's conception of the 35-minute ballet music showed that
he knew what he wanted. And if he had gotten his players to follow him from
start to finish, we'd have had an excellent performance. In summary, I think
this very difficult, very popular orchestral work needed more rehearsal time.
The concert opened with a 4-minute Stravinsky aperitif, Scherzo à la russe, originally written
for the Paul Whiteman band but scored for symphony orchestra in 1946. Its
rhythmic structure apes many places in the composer's more famous chamber work, The Soldier's Tale, from 1918. It's a
trifle with no start and no finish; it just stops suddenly in mid-stream. "As I
was saying . . ."
Principal trumpeter Ryan Beach and principal English hornist
Roger Roe next played solo and duo parts in Aaron Copland's Quiet City for string orchestra (1940).
Though not among Copland's best efforts, Graf, who remained on stage and
introduced each work before the break, had all parties playing together and
The same for Strauss's Serenade for 13
Winds in E-flat, Op. 7 (1882). An early work with a strongly Brahmsian cast,
the 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon, 2 clarinets and 4 horns
came together, performing as a true ensemble.
ISO harpist Diane Evans played equally well in the following
Dances sacrée et
profane for harp and string orchestra (1904) of Debussy. The composer moves
his triadic intervals with lush impressionism, parts of it in waltz time, all
forces following suit -- the best piece in the first half.
A third Stravinsky work ended the first half, his Suite No.
2 for Small Orchestra (1921) in four parts: Marche,
Valse, Polka and Galop. This is yet another trifle, with the composer's
characteristic rhythmic element dominating. Once again our players stayed
To summarize, this program's plusses are the solosists'
excellent playing and the Strauss and the Debussy, both the pieces and their
performance. Its minusses are the remaining weaker works in the first half and
a disappointingly executed Pétrouchka.
April 3-5; Hilbert Circle Theatre