Review: ISO performs in G

Karen Gomyo performed with the ISO last week.

3.5 stars

ISO Classical Series Program No. 12; Hilbert Circle Theatre;

March 10-12.

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 Bürger

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

often performed.

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.


Recommended for you