Hilbert Circle Theatre; Oct. 23-24.
At last! After nearly two years of hearing about the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's "brand-new" theater organ being installed, and anticipating the scheduled programming of the Saint-Saëns "Organ" Symphony a year ago, organ restorer Carlton Smith found he needed an extra year to complete this most arduous task. But now it's done, and the 1931 Wurlitzer from Youngstown, Ohio, had its inaugural last weekend - with the Saint-Saëns also held back an extra year. Its pipes are located in back of the glass and curtained panels above the two side-box seats. Guest conductor Thierry Fischer had his orchestra in perfect balance with the organ's introduction in the symphony's Poco adagio section, organist Martin Ellis using mainly soft pedal tones, some thrusting into the hall the deepest bass I've heard there. But when opening the Maestoso section with a huge, C-major chord, Ellis overwhelmed us with the purely sonic elements of the instrument, coupling with the hall as no onstage orchestra ever has. This was the evening's highpoint, despite the exquisite pianism of Stewart Goodyear in the preceding Ravel Concerto No. 2 in G. Goodyear showed complete control in its daringly fast outer movements while filling the slow movement with tender expressiveness. Contrastingly, Thierry's orchestra - racing at break-neck speed through this and the Saint-Saëns, plus the opening Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements (1945) - barely hung on for dear life, their playing more ragged than if Thierry had commanded slower tempos. For a more detailed look at this ISO classical organ inaugural, visit www.nuvo.net.