Review: Mozart dazzles; Shostakovich baffles

ISO guest conductor Leo Hussain

Friday's concert at the Hilbert Circle Theatre - part of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's Symphonic Hits series - featured one "symphonic hit," a quite agreeable non-hit and a complete

"symphonic miss." Gratefully, the hit was saved till last: Mozart's Symphony

No. 40 in G minor,

K. 550, helmed by yet another Brit guest conductor, Leo Hussain. The suite from Prokofiev's

movie music to Lieutenant Kijé, Op.

60 (1936), opening the program, was the enjoyable non-hit.

Between those two, we heard, in the ISO's first performance ever, soloist Vadim


in the least satisfying of Shostakovich's concerted works (those for

soloist[s] and orchestra), his Violin Concerto No. 2 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 129 (1967).


January weekend carries the potential threat of snowy/icy weather, so if

one wishes to maximize your potential draw, one should program a plethora of "hits" for a

series so titled. Still, the Mozart was worth the wait - 25 minutes of one of

the few great 18th-century symphonies, taut, dramatic and filled with the

beauties under a contrapuntal labyrinth which only a mature Mozart could

provide. While Hussain gave us a smoothly energetic, well shaped first

movement, he made his players more articulate in the ensuing, triple-meter

(three beats to a measure) Andante.

He then picked a notably faster tempo than usual for the

fiery, G minor Minuet, while reducing the pace for its contrasting, centerpiece,

G-major "trio" section. All these approaches worked to reveal the symphony's

greatness from an era in which scores were minimally marked; we don't know how

the composer heard it in his head. It remains to observe that Mozart's decision

to revise K. 550, adding clarinets to the flute, oboes and bassoons of his

original wind complement, allowed ISO principal clarinetist David Bellman to

highlight his instrument beautifully in the Finale's second subject.

Prokofiev's five-part concert adaptation of his first

attempt at scoring film music has proven one of his most popular successes, its

faux militarism handled in an

engagingly tonal, tuneful manner - especially "Troika" (Sleigh Ride), one of the

composer's most famous excerpts of his career. Regrettably, some of the solo

work misfired the first time around in Friday's Lt. Kijé, but was corrected in its repeat. Otherwise, Hussain's

orchestra managed the score with unexceptional lyric clarity.

Shostakovich had only eight years to live after completing

his second and final violin concerto. Although contributing lots of flash and

dash in the solo violin part, well realized by Gluzman, the Soviet composer

seemed to be "resting" before his final push toward his late-style 14th and 15th

symphonies to come.

As a result, this work comes across as the composer

imitating his earlier self - with inferior inspiration yet. All the mannerisms

are there but without anything much for the listener to cling to. Gluzman's

penetrating tone was dominant throughout, often enough to cover the strings in

back of him.


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