Classical Music

Tom Aldridge

IVCI Laureate & Ronen Chamber Series

Indiana History Center

Jan. 24

Bin Huang performed at the IVCI Laureate & Rosen Chamber Series last week.

Last Tuesday saw a convergence of two music series. This year, going it alone, the Ronen Chamber Series joined with their former sponsor, the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, for an evening of delightful music-making at the well-used - and in this case well-attended - Indiana History Center Basile Theater. In addition to Ronen co-founders, clarinetist David Bellman and cellist Ingrid Fischer Bellman, the IVCI invited back - for the first time - Bin Huang, the sixth-place laureate from the 1998 competition. Pianist Sylvia Patterson Scott of the Indianapolis Museum of Art-resident Scott Chamber Players joined these performers, and Ju-Fang Liu, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra principal bassist - now finding a performing niche in local chamber music - returned to the Laureate Series for the second time this season.

Though I hate employing this much-abused word, I have to describe the IVCI-Ronen program as "eclectic." Starting with Mozart three days before the composer's 250th birthday, our players then sampled pieces by Aram Khachaturian, Fritz Kreisler and Richard Strauss - the latter with a little help from one Franz Hasenöhrl.

Mozart's Quartet in A for Flute, Violin, Viola and Cello, K. 298 was the last in a group of four for that combination. Rebecca Arrensen was the flutist, Huang the violinist, Nancy Agres the violist and Fischer-Bellman the cellist. These four easily maintained Mozart's implied balances throughout the three movements, including the final one marked Rondieaoux: Allegretto grazioso ma non troppo presto, pèro non troppo adagio, cosi-cosi-con molto garbo ed espressione. This might take the nod as the longest Italian music marking in history. Mozart did it satirically, and anyone who cares can look up the translation.

Khachaturian is most famous for his rousing "Saber Dance" from his Gayane ballet. In 1932, however, the Armenian composer wrote a very nice Trio in G Minor for clarinet, violin and piano. Cast in slow, fast and moderately paced movements - in that order - we heard clarinetist Bellman, violinist Huang and pianist Scott deliver a well-honed performance, with Bellman and Scott perhaps impressing the most. The work imparts a Gypsy-like sadness in both its slow and fast parts. Scott displayed some impressive pianism.

Four Kreisler violin-piano bon-bons followed and featured Huang and Scott. Both players showed a faultless facility in the broken passage work of the opening "Praeludium and Allegro." In the following "Liebesleid" (Love's Sorrow), Huang displayed a somewhat uneven, nervous vibrato. (In her '98 competition performances, I had noted that she showed intonation problems; these were gone this time around.) But she and Scott gave us an exciting, effective "Tambourin chinois" - a Kreisler favorite, and concluded with his "Syncopation," in which jauntiness ruled the day.

The Hasenöhrl transcription for violin, doublebass, clarinet, bassoon and horn of Strauss' orchestral tone poem Till Eulenspiegel has become a programming favorite in these IVCI sponsored series; this is at least the third time we've heard it in the last decade. And for those familiar with the Strauss original, it's fascinating to hear how much Hasenöhrl has managed to cut from it and yet make it seamless and convincing to those not in the know. Though the program notes give the arranger's justification for doing it - at least in part - Strauss' "prolixity" in his tone poems, this must surely be tongue-in-cheek: Till is the shortest in that Strauss genre, scarcely lasting 15 minutes. That time was cut in half when Hasenöhrl was through with it.

Bassist Ju-Fang Liu, bassoonist Matthew Karr and hornist Robert Danforth joined Huang and Bellman for a convincing rendition of this Till synopsis, their instrumental colors pointing well toward Strauss' orchestra.