"ISO Season opening Gala concert

Hilbert Circle Theatre

Sept. 10

After a week of listening to many violin stars of tomorrow at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, we got to hear what their judges could do in front of an audience — rather than in back. For its 16th season-opening Gala concert, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra hosted seven IVCI jurors, along with 2002 IVCI gold medalist Barnabás Kelemen, in pairs and in a foursome. ISO conductor laureate Raymond Leppard once again inaugurated the orchestra’s season from the podium. In a short program clearly catering to non-regular symphony-goers, Leppard mixed light Baroque with even lighter late-Romantic fare.

Following the Star Spangled Banner, Leppard gave us the very festive Overture to Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music — with trumpets and strings providing that signal Baroquish celebratory flavor. Then IVCI jury president Jaime Laredo joined Kelemen for Vivaldi’s Two-Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 3, No 8. This was followed by Leppard’s own arrangement of Pachelbel’s by-now-infamous Canon in D for Strings. Jurists Cho-Liang Lin and Kyoko Takezawa then paired for Pablo de Sarasate’s Navarra (Danza español) for Two Violins and Orchestra, Op. 33.

Franz Lehár’s Prelude from his Fantasy on Paganini followed the Sarasate. ISO acting concertmaster Philip Palermo provided the only interest in this treacly material with his extended violin solos, calling more attention to his own violin playing than had any of the jurors. The four remaining ones — Joel Smirnoff, Pierre Amoyal, Rodney Friend and Malcolm Lowe — then collaborated in Vivaldi’s Four-Violin Concerto in B Minor, Op. 3 No. 10, betraying a few squeaks and pitch problems, no doubt explained by their having very little rehearsal time.

Leppard capped the evening with all eight fiddlers plucking away at “Holiday for Strings,” followed by a “controlled” sampling of upper stage fireworks.

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