ISO Classical Series Program No. 12; Hilbert Circle Theatre;
Was it an accident or did Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
guest conductor Jakub Hrusa
plan last weekend's program with deliberate calculation around the key of G —
the first two works in G minor, the final one also starting in G minor but
slipping into G major? I won't be quizzing him on it because it's not that
important to the audience but rather only to pitch sensitive people who look
for programming ties. Besides, the middle work, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No
2, Op. 62, strays far and often from that signature key.
And though the program's featured work, Dvorak's Symphony No.
8 in G, Op. 88, has a slow movement in the key of C, G — major or minor
— predominates elsewhere. One might observe that this poorly attended
(Friday evening) program has a key issue besides the small turnout. Especially
with the program's opener, César Franck's dazzling, 12-minute symphonic poem, Le Chasseur maudit
("The Accursed Hunter," 1882), where practically every measure suggests G
Based on a ballad by Gottfried BÃ¼rger
in which a huntsman ignores the call of church bells, the Sabbath and is thus
destined to hunt relentlessly for eternity, Chasseur
goes against Franck's more typical writing style. For one thing, it uses the
largest orchestra the composer ever employed, including a bass drum, triangle and
chimes, plus a liberal use of horns. It employs a catchy thematic motive which
drives its way through brilliant orchestration, carrying the huntsman's
inexorable destiny with it. I find it an absorbing piece which should be more
As Hrusa stated before the program
began, Chasseur has "lots of notes."
And not quite all of them fell precisely where they belonged. The conductor
seemed to hold back the tempo to get those notes in as close as possible,
rendering its climactic measures less exciting than they could have been (and are, in the piece's best recordings).
But the last time the ISO played this was in 1991, so that it may not have been
quite "under their fingers," "on their hands" or "in their mouths."
The rest of the program went far better, especially with the
suavity of Karen Gomyo's violin playing in the
Prokofiev. Her nearly white tone strongly recalls that of Midori, the
39-year-old Japanese legendary fiddler who appeared here last October. Yet Gomyo projects a similarly subtle vibrancy which captures
what Prokofiev wants his violin to be doing throughout his three movements. Hrusa's orchestra melded admirably with Gomyo's
widely varying solo display, most especially in the concerto's fetching final
Filled with Slavonic/Bohemian folkish
material — all created by Dvorak and not derived from genuine folk
sources, his Eighth Symphony strikes an excellent contrast between his stormy,
dramatic, Brahmsian Seventh and his world-famous
Ninth ("New World"), in which Bohemia and Americana are equally represented. If
this were Jewish music, we'd hear a bit of the yearning Klezmer style in the
work's G-minor opening, but this gets quickly dispelled until the second
movement with its equivocal, flute-carrying rocking figure. With excellent solo
work, good orchestral precision, pacing and balance, Hrusa
came close to giving us what I think Dvorak would have wanted here.