Three and a half stars

Hilbert Circle Theatre; Oct. 30-Nov. 2

There exists one strong reason why many more people should have attended the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra program of last weekend than the embarrassingly poor turnout (Friday): Manuel de Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, with one of the most musically triumphant closes I can recall. Guest conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto of Mexico spent much time in Spain absorbing those Spanish idioms so prevalent in Falla’s ballet music. Like his Italian-opera contemporary, Falla’s Three-Cornered Hat’s sparklingly vivid instrumentation makes him a Spanish Puccini. Its rhythmic drive, its skillful accelerandos and its gorgeous Spanish themes whip past us like quicksilver. This is one of the few examples of first-rate Spanish music coming from this period, and Prieto had its measure from start to finish. Three selections from Iberia, written by Isaac Albéniz (for piano) and orchestrated by E. F. Arbós, began the program. Aside from the effectively brilliant orchestration and though well conducted, the music lacked all the other factors Three-Cornered Hat displayed in abundance. Then 26-year-old Japanese/Canadian guest violinist Karen Gomyo made her first ISO appearance in Édouard Lalo’s five-movement Symphonie Espagnole for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 21. Gomyo plays the violin like velvet — a little too much velvet and not enough articulation, except in the Andante (fourth) movement, where her tonal properties best flattered those singing lines.

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