"Dvorak: Four and a half stars
The rest: Three stars
Hilbert Circle Theatre; Nov. 9-10
The last Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Classical Series concert before January had to run without its music director. Mario Venzago had reported being ill, with his doctor’s orders not to fly (from Germany) till his condition is resolved. Meanwhile, James Gaffigan, associate conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, took Venzago’s place last weekend with a program change: In place of Carl Maria von Weber’s Oberon Overture and Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, Gaffigan substituted Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G, Op. 88. No mention was made on the change insert card or from the stage of the Weber being removed; his overture must have fallen into a black hole. In any case, Gaffigan lit up the Dvorak Eighth like Fourth of July fireworks. He infused his high-energy reading with luscious, Bohemian-tinted ensemble work, especially the massed strings in the third and fourth movements — a performance to remember. Violinist Leila Josefowicz returned to demonstrate her dazzling technique in Brit Oliver Knussen’s recently minted Violin Concerto, Op. 30. Filled with smart, new orchestral colors, this three-movement piece’s rough edges were smoothed by Josefowicz’s mellow timbres. Gaffigan opened with a routine reading of Schumann’s Overture, Scherzo and Finale.