Hilbert Circle Theatre; Oct. 16-17.
Last weekend began the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's brand new series-within-a-series, "Symphonic Hits," emphasizing the standard repertoire and reducing some ticket prices to help fill the house. To draw a perhaps artificial distinction between this and the ISO Classical Series, it starts at 7:30 rather than 8:00 p.m. and offers both pre and post-concert extras. Guest conductor Matthias Bamert, along with marquee pianist Garrick Ohlsson, collaborated in Chopin's Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21, a piece made to order for Ohlsson's exquisite pianism. Though light-veined and filled with decorative pianistic figures, along with minimum orchestration, this and his following, more ambitious 1st Concerto (yes, the numbering got reversed) have remained concert mainstays because of Chopin's unique melodic gift. Ohlsson's skill at making all the decorations seem important, as well as natural, made this work the evening's highlight. Opening with Shostakovich's brief - and "safe" - Festive Overture, Bamert sailed through the composer's trite-but-very-accessible material, in keeping with his just received Soviet honor in 1954 as The People's Artist. When all other elements of a symphonic performance are addressed and conquered, it finally comes down to tempo - which can enrich or compromise the listening experience - especially for a work like Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64, ending the program. Bamert could have made this a great performance if he had sped up the tempo in all but the slow movement. He had all the sections playing together, for the most part. But the Allegro vivace in the Finale lapsed in its ponderousness.