Having undergone surgery last summer, the Indianapolis
Symphony Orchestra's 87-year-old conductor laureate Raymond Leppard, using a
cane, was also assisted to the podium by tenor Brian Stucki. But it's safe to say that his
conducting--and arranging--belied any sense of older-aged frailty. Having launched it
in 1998 at the Christel DeHaan Center (and featuring the great
soprano diva Kathleen Battle), this is the 15th Classical Christmas Leppard has
conducted (a scheduling conflict caused him to miss one in the early years). And as a result he has
given a select audience a taste of some of the lesser known but worthy music of
the Holiday season.
This time, the hour and a half concert was dominated by
Leppard arrangements and adaptations, with featured composers Max Bruch
(1838-1920), Claude Debussy (1862-1918), Joachim Raff (1822-1882) and Hugo Wolf
to intermission we heard yet another portion of Bach's great Christmas Oratorio, a work he's sneaked,
in part, into his programs in past years. Too bad there's never been time for
all of it together.
"On New Year's Day" is the fourth of the six-part oratorio;
it opens and closes with the full chorus, once again featuring Jan Harrington's
IU based Apollo's Voice--ten women and eleven men, singing with the high level
of precision we've come to expect. Instead of the usual festive trumpets,
the French horns dominated this part, with one each of the woodwinds and a
small bevy of strings. Vocal soloists
Jessica Beebe, soprano; Brian Stucki, tenor; and Samuel Spade, baritone
completed the performers. Of special interest was the "Echo Aria"
wherein some words sung by Beebe were echoed offstage
by Apollo soprano Evelyn Nelson.
Bruch's cantata The
Flight into Egypt with a Leppard translation followed the break. Featuring singing only
by Stucki and the women's choir, the music typifies the late Romantic
period--less festive, more serious. Debussy's 1915: In Time of War- A Carol for Refugees is another Leppard
arrangement and an adapted text. It frankly sounded more Romantic than
what the impessionistic composer was writing at the time.
Raff's Lullaby for the
Children of Christel House was adapted and arranged from the 3rd movement
of the composer's Octet in C for Strings, Op. 176 and featured Beebe with the
women's choir. The
concert ended with Wolf's Schlafendes
Jesuskind (Sleeping Christ-Child), a short hymn with the full chorus--again
with a Leppard arrangement and adaptation--the most interesting piece of the
Apollo's Choir maintained its high caliber since its
founding in 1998 as a Classical Christmas regular. The vocal soloists were competant
though not exceptional.
The instrumental ensemble followed Leppard's dictates to a
farthing. And here's hoping our conductor laureate becomes more mobile in the
coming months. Dec. 13; Howard L. Schrott
Center for the Arts