Three and a half stars

Hilbert Circle Theatre; Oct. 17-18

Three women leapt to the forefront of last weekend’s ISO program. Chinese composer Chen Yi (b. 1953) led off the concert with her short, orchestral piece, Antiphony — or Ge Xu, in the Chinese pronunciation. Her friend, countryman and ISO guest conductor Xian Zhang was on the podium for her first appearance here. A mixture of Asian influences and Western Modernism pervaded the 10-minute composition, wherein I preferred the Asian parts to the highly dissonant Western ones. Next came a Baroque piece: the Trumpet Concerto in D Minor, Op. 6 No. 4, by Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1750), played by ISO strings, continuo and British guest trumpeter Alison Balsom, who used a small piccolo trumpet. Balsom showed an immediately arresting beauty of tone, primarily legato (one note melding into the next) in nature. This quality continued when she changed to a full-size trumpet for Haydn’s famous (and only) Trumpet Concerto in E-flat of 1796. She exuded those memorable melodies and its dazzling display work with equal ease, demonstrating the best trumpet playing I’ve heard since when. Zhang conducted on a somewhat lower level, the playing being marked by less string precision than the orchestra is capable of — notably in the concluding Beethoven Symphony No. 4 in B-flat, Op. 60. Ragged string work converted an energetic reading into a rushed one. 

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