"ISO Classical Series Program No. 4
Hilbert Circle Theatre
A young Russian conductor comes to Indy to lead the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in old Russian music. A young Korean pianist comes here to play “old” Soviet music. The comparison, however, is relative. Vasily Petrenko, just appointed principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, is only 30 years old. Joyce Yang, silver medalist at last year’s Van Cliburn Piano Competition, is only 20. The old Russians are Tchaikovsky and Liadov; the old Soviet is Shostakovich. All this pairing produced a concert last weekend filled with synergy.
Petrenko bounded onto the podium exuding his youthful energy and pounded into Anatoly Liadov’s (1855-1914) very short Baba-Yaga (1904) for orchestra. Lasting scarcely five minutes, the piece typifies the composer’s penchant for programmatic miniatures with macabre, fairy-tale themes; but we heard enough to confirm Petrenko’s conducting talent as deserving of his current recognition.
Yang then joined Petrenko for Dimitry Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F, Op. 102 (1957). Filled with rhythmic high-spirits in the two outer movements, the central one, a poignant Andante, could have come entirely from the Romantic era. Yang and the orchestra played it almost as an Adagio, dreamlike and yearning. Whereas in a famous recording of Shostakovich playing it himself the year he wrote it (which I happen to possess), the movement was faster-paced—a true Andante. I would say Yang and Petrenko’s approach works equally well.
Fast and deliberate, the young pianist punched her way through the outer movements, her note-perfect staccato/octave figures conveying metronomic urgency. The one word best describing her playing here is control. Her articulation approached perfection. The composer’s satiric bent blatantly blossomed here. The orchestra had lots of fun as well, executing intervals with a septuple meter (seven beats to a measure) in the final movement, yanking us askew in its rhythmic crossfire. Fun, fun, fun.
For the program’s second half, we heard a well-deserved repertoire standard: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64. Written ten years after his Fourth and five years before his Sixth, we heard once again why these final three Tchaikovsky symphonies connect to so many: beautiful melodies linked with large-scale thematic progression and sufficient dramatic architecture to create a unified whole. Especially in this case, all its elements were nicely revealed in Petrenko’s exciting account. Balanced, well articulated and beautifully inflected, Petrenko’s Tchaikovsky Fifth brought the 35-minute, four-movement work to life once more.