Short, sweet and to the point — all good ways to describe the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s opening galas these past two years. They’ve decided to skip an intermission and keep the programs a bit more concise, making room for pre- and post-concert receptions.
This year’s program started off (after "The Star-Spangled Banner," of course) with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with the brilliant Jeremy Denk at the keys. His Beethoven was precise but not mechanical, infused with infectious joy and youthful exuberance.The second movement was tender and sweet; the last full of aplomb and seemingly cheeky at times.
Music director Krzysztof Urbanski, starting his fourth season with the ISO, conducted a reduced orchestra (called for by the piece) that ably complemented Denk. The audience was delighted when Denk came back afterwards for a thoughtful and delicate reading of the 13th variation from J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
The full orchestra returned for selections from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. It's a perfectly fine piece but Urbanski’s rather safe, controlled reading seemed a bit tame for a season opener. The orchestra played well, apart from a few flubs here and there, but I wish Urbanski had gone bolder, programming a Strauss tone poem or an overture from one of Verdi or Wagner’s operas — something more celebratory or bombastic. Nevertheless, the concert proved a great start to the ISO's 85th season.