Music Fantasy-themed music distinguished the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s opening Symphony on the Prairie concert on June 26. Maestro Alfred Savia’s showcasing of Fantasia, 1940 and 2000, brought home popular culture’s debt to classical music. What we cherish in Disney’s films are stand-alone works to savor on one of the loveliest half-moon evenings. We could conjure up Disney Studios’ stereophonic sound swooping across the screen, synchronized to fantastical drawings; or we could create our own images against the dome of sky and along the undulating horizon, listening to the ISO. Fantasia originally was to be a short film with Mickey Mouse acting out Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but it exploded into a full-length musical feature with visual equivalents to the music of seven other composers. The ISO presented four, beginning with Ponchielli’s playful “Dance of the Hours” from the opera La Gioconda. The catchy tune drifting in and out was readily recognized as Roger Sherman’s steal for “Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder ...” The harp was particularly lovely in its cascading of time, and clouds were good stand-ins for the film’s swans, hippos and elephants, even accommodating the funniest ever pas de deux. Beethoven’s first movement of his “Pastorale” pictures a day in the country. The symphony shared nature’s nuances in all its array. While Disney’s take was mythological, the setting sun sufficed here as tempo and volume traversed the spectrum.
The mini-dramas of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite animated flowers and mushrooms. On the prairie, real fireflies looped into the ISO’s swirling, twirling as instruments in unison moved into the fray.
Yet it was the powerhouse, the incomparable Mickey Mouse living the music, that totally engaged the audience. You could feel the connecting from the opening swoop to that swat-ending.
Stokowski’s setting of Bach’s Tocata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565, opened the second half, truly appropriate for dimming light as section after section illuminated the swelling of the original organ work. With shadows creeping between the trees, Salvia jumped a dozen decades with John Williams’ screen score, “Harry’s Wondrous World” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Fantasia 2000 closed the program with Respighi’s The Pines of Rome infusing four locations with such vibrancy we truly were transported to that distant place and time. And then fireworks filled the sky. The audience of over 4,000 lingered, making leaving as pleasant an experience as was arriving.