ISO Symphonic Hits Program No. 17



stars – Hilbert Circle Theatre; May 7-8. If the Brahms Second is the

"symphonic hit" on this program, then the Liszt Second Piano Concerto in A is a

"concerted miss." Not the playing of it — guest pianist Marc-André

Hamelin and guest conductor Jun Märkl gave us a sizzling performance —

but the work itself is embarrassingly trite, even for Liszt. Filled with flash

and dash, it's all superficial show — quite inferior to Liszt's First

Concerto in E-flat, played here a while back. This was the Indianapolis

Symphony Orchestra's final season-program under the "Symphonic Hits" label.

Starting at 7:30 instead of 8 p.m., this forced the pre-concert, half-hour

"Sound Off" to 6:30, a bit close to supper time for many. But I digress. The

one non-symphonic hit (or non-concerted miss) began the program — a piece

I'd never previously heard: Saint-Saëns' Africa, Fantasy for Piano and

Orchestra, Op. 89 (1891). Here as well, the Hamelin-Märkl combo gave us a fleet

account of very mature, very well crafted, late Saint-Saëns — in this

case a winner and a piece deserving of more attention than the Liszt which followed

it. Hamelin's double-octave work was a marvel to hear throughout. Brahms'

Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73 is as stalwart a work as the composer's three other

symphonies, all enjoying the pinnacle of Romantic craft with mixed inspiration.

Märkl, who had astonished in a previous guest appearance between Raymond

Leppard and Mario Venzago's music-director tenures, impressed a bit less this

time, but only in Brahms' final movement, which produced some rough execution

with Märkl's racing tempo. The rest was the best.


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