"Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra
IVCI Laureate Series
Indiana History Center
Raymond Harvey — over two decades ago the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Exxon-Arts endowment conductor — returned to Indy last Saturday and brought with him his winning smile and engaging personality. He also, to put it simply, conducted the hell out of the 31-piece Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, making the Indiana History Center Basile Theater rafters ring. And, he was nicely complemented by International Violin Competition of Indianapolis 1982 silver medalist Ida Kavafian in the two program centerpieces.
Kavafian began her stint with the Romance in F Minor, Op. 11, an early work of Antonin Dvorak, which lyrically meanders along, exuding shades of Wagner. Delivering an understated, well-controlled reading, Kavafian still impresses as being among the finest of past IVCI laureates. She continued in this vein with Louis Spohr’s unusual, single-movement Violin Concerto No. 8 in A Minor, Op. 47 (1816), a late Classical work with some Romantic pretensions, much of it/them on the superficial side. Kavafian eased her way through all the fiddle-display challenges Spohr offered, including a short cadenza. Harvey’s players moved precisely with her throughout, all participants giving this light-veined work the best account possible.
Harvey struck real sparks, however, with his opening and closing pieces. He began with the first live performance I can recall ever hearing of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Overture to Iphigenia in Aulis (1774) — one of the most beautiful overtures anybody ever wrote. In fact, my only experience with this piece was from a 1952 Toscanini recording. Harvey took it at a much faster clip, but lost nothing in precise, well-integrated playing for it. This was as good as the ICO has gotten: playing a profound, unheralded masterwork beautifully.
The same can be said of Harvey’s final work, Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61, in which precision was again the hallmark throughout the four movements. Much has been written about Schumann’s difficulty at orchestrating: Harvey and his small complement brought out all the colors and timbres — for all to hear.