Review: ISO features two exciting guests


ISO Classical Series Program No. 8

Hilbert Circle Theatre; Nov. 17-19

In its last weekend program before the holiday season

ushers in the

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's extended Yuletide Celebration

series, the orchestra struck gold with its guest conductor and guest soloist.


Christoph Campestrini led the ISO in two favorites: Beethoven's Piano

Concerto No. 3 in C

Minor, Op. 37, and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 ("Scottish"), with


Jeffrey Kahane at the keyboard for the Beethoven.

Shorter, and of lesser caliber, Aaron Jay Kernis' (b. 1960) Musica Celestis for string orchestra (adapted

from the second movement of his second string quartet) opened the program. Clearly

in the key of A, I thought at first I was hearing Wagner's Lohengrin Prelude to Act I, both using

ethereal high register violin triads introducing what follows.

Kernis' intent was to portray "the singing of angels in

heaven in praise of God without end" - which also rather resembles Wagner's

intent. That Kernis was certainly no Wagner was quite evident in the former's

lack of an inexorably compelling progression to a climactic point, with a

subsequent resolution to the opening mood. Campestrini and strings nonetheless gave the

piece a polished account.

As one with many former ISO appearances, Kahane has only

seemed to get better with each return to Indy. This was the best Beethoven No.

3 that I've heard in some time, with orchestra and piano dovetailing

throughout. Kahane added considerably to the work's intensity with his rapid

scale runs and passage work. He had a way of bringing out notes of importance,

making the composition really gel throughout its three movements. His

virtuosity was top-notch, without calling undo attention to itself.

And the lovely slow movement, with its more-than-subtle allusion to Mozart's Elvira Madigan Concerto, gave us a

perfectly nuanced experience.

Mendelssohn's "Scottish" Symphony was the last he wrote,

though perhaps not his best; his No. 4, the "Italian" gets my vote for the

latter. Though it contains a plethora of memorable themes, the connecting

passages tend to ramble just a bit, with the Scottish-folk-derived second

movement an exception. But all music meant to be fast--i.e. when marked Allegro or more--always comes across best when played that


It also helps when all the instrumental choirs are in sync,

when the louds and the softs are clearly audible and when the balance is

perfect throughout. Campestrini not only did all the preceding, but gave the

third movement, an Adagio cantabile, its proper slowness. His conducting was as

good as we've heard so far this season.


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