Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Classical Series
Program No. 15
Hilbert Circle Theatre
March 31-April 2
When Mario Venzago is joined by Hoosier native and violinist extraordinaire Joshua Bell, the pair pack them in like sardines. The highlight of the program featured Bell playing the first North American performance of the Concerto for Violin by Iranian composer Behzad Ranjbaran - a piece he wrote in 2002 and dedicated to Bell, his former IU classmate. A very accessible work filled with idiomatic violin writing, the concerto strongly resonated with the large audience, even getting extended applause after the first movement.
Bell, Venzago and the orchestra swept through its three movements with seeming effortlessness, sharing a modern mix of common and open chords, luscious orchestral colors and virtuoso playing by the former Bloomington/IU/Gingold-student wunderkind, now well into his 30s. The special colors Ranjbaran evokes by melding the solo violin with the winds, especially the flutes, contribute to the work's sonic signature - somewhat recalling Stravinsky's Violin Concerto of 1931.
Still, Ranjbaran has made a significant contribution to the violin concerto literature. As to whether or not it becomes a repertoire piece ... only time will tell. The standing, more-extended ovation at its end suggests either it will, or anything Bell plays is a turn-on - or perhaps both.