Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Return to the scene: Medalists in 2018 IVCI come back for a joint recital at Glick Indiana History Center

With the stress of competition removed for performers and audience alike, the top three players in last year's International Violin Competition of Indianapolis came back to the scene of their triumphs for a recital program Tuesday evening.

Winners of the bronze, silver, and gold medals in the 2018 IVCI presented mini-recitals, nicely balanced in length and idiom, at the Basile Theater of the Glick Indiana History Center. Chih-Yi Chen provided suitably conscientious partnership at the piano.

Captivating encore: Lin, Hokamura, and Hsu play Julian Milone's arrangement  of the 24th Paganini caprice.
Performance order differed from how the three violinists finished in September. To open there was an unusual appetizer in weight and distinction: the magisterial Chaconne from J.S. Bach's Partita no. 2 in D minor, played by silver medalist Risa Hokamura. The elaborate set of variations on a short repeated phrase has long been regarded as the summit of the solo violin repertoire.

The variation form poses an eternal question, especially when it comes to interpretation by a soloist. Should the variations sound like variously contrasting ways of handling the same material, so that a performance emphasizes how they reflect upon one another, as if each had its place in a broad mosaic or musical quilt? Or does that focus take second place to building an interpretive arc over the course of the form, so that the whole sequence has a kind of rhetorical solidity? In other words, is the Chaconne an exhibition or an argument?

However interesting it is to hear an illuminating display of the composer's variation ingenuity, I lean more toward performances of works in variation form that have narrative drive. In the Bach Chaconne, the string-crossing intensity of a couple of variations toward the end should be enough to raise chills along the spine— not because of their isolated glory but because they seem connected to the significance of what has gone on before and, especially, to the calm, concluding restatement of the original. Hokamura started the piece with the initial chords more broken than usual, a choice that signaled commitment to neither approach in particular. But it did herald a deliberate interpretation, emphasizing the reflective side of the music. Despite its technical assurance, it seemed a little too studied and episodic, even granted the attractive flow she imparted to the more tender variations.

She commanded good tempo fluctuation in Tchaikovsky's Valse-Scherzo, which showed a more personal sense of the music's meaning. She let the soaring melody in the middle glide nicely. And she made playful and precise the short, downward-skittering figures in the main theme. For the Ravel Tzigane, the unaccompanied introductory section that puts an authentic gypsy stamp on the work had the right air of spontaneity and barely restrained wildness. After the piano entrance, the riotous atmosphere attained steadiness and verve that was expertly coordinated with the keyboard in the accelerating passages that bring the work to a powerful conclusion.

Such power rooted in folk music was a feature as well of bronze medalist Luke Hsu's finale, Wieniawski's "Scherzo-tarantelle" in G minor, op. 16. A fleet display of any fiddler's technical chops, the work showed Hsu's to be of a high order, apart from such imbalances as blurry low figuration contrasted with abrupt high-register punctuation. To balance all the piece's demands at top speed is a continual challenge. But, even allowing for a final squeal of indeterminate pitch, Hsu's performance admirably indicated he knows just what a display piece is all about. Bravura to burn goes a long way in bringing off such music.

Still, there was perhaps too strong a sense in Hsu's stage manner of a man wrestling music to the mat and pinning it for the win. Fortunately, what we heard was usually more nuanced than what we saw. The Prokofiev Sonata No. 2 in D major, the one he wrote originally for flute and whose music retains some of that air-borne quality, was well thought-out and displayed Hsu's great feeling for tone. The tart fanfares of the first movement were brilliantly articulated, and the succeeding Presto confirmed the violinist's gift  for sharply defined rhythms. The Andante had the hummable quality one expects from 20th-century classical music's finest tunesmith. The finale put Hsu's muscular approach to good use as the duo set the pulses racing.

Between the Prokofiev and Wieniawski, Hsu played the last two movements of Eugene Ysaye's Sonata in G minor for Solo Violin. The complex strands threaded among dizzying chains of 32nd and 64th notes were clear throughout the Allegretto poco Scherzoso, and the Finale con Brio was dramatic, trenchantly accented, and expansive.

After intermission came the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the gold-medal winning ways of Richard Lin. The evening's most concentrated display of one composer came with Lin and Chen's performance of Edvard Grieg's Sonata No. 3 in C minor. I felt, as I did with what I heard of Lin during the competition, that he consistently imparted his personality to the music without burying it in himself. The playing was well-nigh perfect in pace and pitch, especially in the final measures of the warmly rendered second movement. His rapport with the pianist was airtight, especially in the finale, with its vivid contrasts of tempo and mood.

In Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen," an old chestnut that can be counted on to come through afresh when sensitively played, Lin delivered. He had finesse to spare in delineating every mercurial gesture in the first part, where the violin dominates. With the duo in lockstep in the fast concluding section, Lin conveyed the score's earthiness while keeping his tone pure. The piece's touches of glitter — its harmonics and left-hand pizzicati — were neatly tossed off. This was virtuoso playing that didn't stir the uneasy feeling that showing off was the extent of what the piece had to communicate.

The three prize fiddlers gathered onstage for an encore, delighting the near-capacity audience with an arrangement of the best-known Paganini Caprice for solo violin, the immortal No. 24. Distribution of its imperishable wonders was expertly managed by the three medalists. The marvelous arrangement is the work of London's Julian Milone, an old hand at stunning expansions of violin music for multiple strings. It was an ideal nightcap to this violin feast.

[Photo by Denis Ryan Kelly Jr.]

Monday, March 18, 2019

More than academic: Butler jazz faculty reach out beyond campus in Jazz Kitchen debut

Controversy about the strength and sustenance that jazz's home in academia give to the music continues to be lively, as a visit or two to Jack Walrath's Jazz Trumpets Forum (on Facebook) will reconfirm. Whatever happened to learning your craft from older working role models on the bandstand, runs the nostalgic sentiment?

But there is little doubt that high school and college programs that develop jazz musicians are firmly entrenched, even indispensable. The narrow path presented by the dearth of all-ages performance opportunities is just one reason for not depending on the shrinking number of jazz nightclubs to nurture young musicians.

In that context, it's great to see teachers at the college level exhibit their expertise in the public sphere, as happened in one long set Sunday night at the Jazz Kitchen when Butler University faculty took the stage.

In the future, it would be great to hear more originals from the group, but in any case there were some spicy arrangements to savor, starting with pianist Gary Walters' perky setting of Thelonious Monk's "Let's Cool One," which opened the set, and going on to alto saxophonist Matt Pivec's sensitively animated "Witch Hunt" (Wayne Shorter). I also enjoyed vocalist Erin Benedict's nimble version of Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean." It opened with the singer in dialogue with bassist Jesse Wittman and went on to explore some sparse textures without ever going slack.

Wrapping things up was a fitting tribute to the ultimate jazz educator, the late David Baker, in a romp through his "Kentucky Oysters," arranged by trombonist Rich Dole. Walters contributed one of his several stunning solos of the set to that finale; he was also crucial to the success of several of Benedict's songs, an indicator of his long history accompanying singers, principally Carrie Newcomer.

As for the soloing in what seemed to be the gig's mostly jam-session profile, there was a particular thrill to drummer Jon Crabiel's setting aside sticks and brushes to etch an astute manual backdrop for Wittman's solo in "Alone Together," in which the front line was left to the reduced horn contingent of Dole and tenor saxophonist Sean Imboden, compatible partners and individualists as well. Crabiel continued with his hands in play, complemented by footwork on bass drum and hi-hat cymbals, in a richly varied solo turn.

Throughout, Butler student Kent Hickey was an adept substitute player on trumpet, setting down an especially incandescent solo in Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia."  Guitarist Sandy Williams, always tasteful and focused, was among the other soloists in that zesty excursion.

This exposition by the northside university's professorial class was sufficient indication that there's plenty of proof in the academic jazz pudding. I will be happy to anticipate more in the future.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Doors into the unknown: IRT's 'A Doll's House Part 2' takes up Nora's story 15 years after famous departure

Torvald leans in to make himself clear to Nora.
The natural feature of Norway best-known to the world is its fjords — narrow waterways to the sea that typically pass between steep cliffs. A brief online search of fjord images indicates that the definitive "steep cliffs" aren't inevitably a feature, and these more gradual bordering slopes are crucial to Ann Sheffield's scenic design for
"A Doll's House Part 2," the Lucas Hnath drama that Indiana Repertory Theatre opened Friday night.

That communicates a lot of the meaning of this cheeky sequel to Henrik Ibsen's 1879 realistic tragedy of the collapse of a middle-class Norwegian marriage. The vistas awaiting Nora Helmer as she escapes from a role she finds disrespectful and confining vary ambiguously from the closed-in feeling of her domestic life to the promise of something more open, reaching to the sky.

The production's beautiful backdrop, with the deceptively gentle mountains bordering the water on both sides, is the mute natural frame for Nora's fate. The house that she left 15 years before is shockingly minimal in its
Returning home, Nora explains her long absence to Anne Marie.
furnishings. Between the visible outdoors and the oddly institutional appearance of the Helmer home's interior, we almost get all we need to know about what Part 2 has to communicate. Individually grasped liberty under restrictive social mores can be barren. In Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist formulation, we are condemned to freedom.

Director James Still takes an approach both playful and stark in the movement of the play's four characters: The returning Nora and her desperate agenda, her abandoned husband Torvald, the couple's daughter Emmy, and the household's longtime nanny and housekeeper Anne Marie. Their conversational maneuvers involve shifting chairs around like chess pieces, trying to regulate a proximity to each other that matches their words and suits their moods.

The circumstances of Nora's departure have upended family life and the Helmer reputation in their small town.
With difficulty the fleeing wife and mother has painfully crafted a good living as a feminist writer under a pseudonym; the reason for her return, though it's revealed early, is so crucial that spoiler etiquette forbids me to divulge it here. The surprises with which Hnath lards his script are well-distributed and fortunately too well-grounded to strain credulity: Revelation of the sort of person Emmy has turned out to be as a young adult is a paradigm shift. When it comes, the feeling is not dismayingly obvious, but entirely natural. Hnath has thoroughly processed his great predecessor's uncanny skill at dissecting why people act the way they do.

He does so with a startling blend of raw emotional upheaval and manic comedy. He allows the four  — particularly Torvald and Nora as they rake over and stoke the embers of their long-dying marriage — to give vent to temper tantrums that skirt the edge of sit-com blowups today's audiences are familiar with. Obscene insults and foot-stamping find their way into elaborately well-articulated arguments. Whatever shocks Ibsen provided to audiences of his day are updated commandingly in the new play's language and this production's  detailed gestures, tense pauses, and frenetic movement. In character the actors occasionally address the audience, intensely broadening their arguments, as if to say "Can I get an amen?!"

At the summit of the virtuoso performances is Tracy Michelle Arnold's portrayal of Nora. The character's range of emotions, from her confident anti-marriage exposition in the first scene to the tortured neediness so variously evident later, get free rein. Yet there's never the sense that the characterization is off the rails or scattershot in its focus; there is an undeniable through line from entrance to exit. Arnold's Nora is neither a ninny nor a Nestor, but something infinitely more complex. Again, taking care to avoid specifics, let me simply indicate that her exit confirms and extends the tragic dimensions of the original play.

Becca Brown plays the Helmers' self-possessed daughter.
As Torvald, Nathan Hosner matches Arnold angst for angst. Torvald's discomfort at the unexpected return of his estranged wife sends seismic waves out from the stage. His face registered it all, lips curling and uncurling, cheek muscle twitching. Self-consciousness attains new heights, and Torvald talks about it, of course. Hosner also  caught  the comical dimension of an alpha male's insecurity in a world about to change into the 20th century's emergence of feminism. Critiques of marriage had been already launched in the turmoil of Ibsen's era, and the sequel's updated language forges a bond with progressive notions that were bubbling up many decades before sexual liberation was pharmaceutically enabled.

Becca Brown conveyed Emmy's blunt appraisal of her mother's behavior and its effects on the family. For the most part, Emmy is a cool customer, but Brown shifted into the character's emotional overdrive easily. Kim Staunton moved beyond the long-suffering maid stereotype she embodied at first to complete the four-sided exhibition of personal resentments and grievances, meeting fire with fire.

Alex Jaeger's costume designs were rich in period atmosphere, and the actors wore them magnificently, despite the flopping about required of Hosner and Arnold. Michelle Habeck's lighting and Tom Horan's sound complemented the action — assisting its dips and swirls, its soaring and plunging — at every turn. Besides being condemned to freedom, the people in "A Doll's House Part 2" helplessly live out another Sartrean condemnation: Hell is other people.

[Photos by Zach Rosing]

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Site-specific Fonseca Theatre Company production spotlights the legend and luster of Lady Day

When an actor portrays a famous person, mere mimicry isn't everything. But we expect a reasonable facsimile in order to get the uncanny thrill we have whenever a stage or screen depiction sets before us a celebrity we think
Monica Cantrell as Billie Holiday
we "know" well.

Opinions are sure to differ, but to get an outside example out of the way: I admired Sam Rockwell's impersonation of George W. Bush more than Christian Bale's otherwise amazing spittin' image of Dick Cheney in last year's "Vice." Rockwell's very approximateness to "Dubya" won me over.

Thus, I liked the obvious sense that I wasn't really seeing Billie Holiday before me Wednesday night when "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" opened in a Fonseca Theatre Company production at the Linebacker Lounge. Monica Cantrell's full-fledged representation of the extravagantly admired singer came through most completely in her singing. When a performer with such a distinctive style as Holiday's can be so well re-created, you have all you need to make Lanie Robertson's play succeed.

Cantrell, who did the show a generation ago in a Phoenix Theatre production,  had that in abundance. Already in her first song, "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone," I had a catch in my throat. What a marvelous grasp of Billie Holiday she displayed there! The first time she sang the song's bridge, the touch of whimper she imparted to the words "treat me" was spot on. Other authentic touches — delicate ornamentation, perfect diction and pitch sense, and suitable expressiveness — kept animating Cantrell's performance throughout the 100-minute show.

Another Holiday characteristic,  behind-the-beat phrasing, never taken to the edge of distortion, was immaculate. It first showed up in the second song, "When a Woman Loves a Man." It helped put across the poignancy of "God Bless the Child," especially in the lingering phrase "that's got his own." Directed by Dena Toler (with music direction by Tim Brickley), Cantrell covered the Holiday spectrum — sometimes in the same song. "Easy Living" hinted at heartbreak, but had a smile at the end.

Stock-still and statuesque in a long white dress, she riveted the packed bar's attention with "Strange Fruit," the searing sketch of Southern lynching outrages that Holiday made a personal anthem. The way Cantrell sang the grotesque phrase focusing on the victims' appearance — "bulging eyes and twisted mouth" — dared listeners to avert their gaze. (The song focuses on Dixie atrocities, but the practice is often illustrated by a photo of a double lynching in Marion, Indiana, in 1930).

Some fans of Holiday are swept away by her late period, when heartache and substance abuse had ravaged her voice. But though this show's setting is a Philadelphia dive bar in 1959, the year of Holiday's death, Cantrell's singing had the strengths of the singer in her prime. That seemed fully appropriate: The show is a portrait of an immortal, and why shouldn't her best work be evoked? The way she sang the lugubrious "Don't Explain" evoked some of that late-period fragility quite well.

Who knows how close the spoken words Robertson puts in the singer's mouth match reality? It's certain that the device of having her so fully address the audience between songs doesn't jibe with Holiday's mystique — the isolated diva on whose every note fans used to hang. But I think the anecdotes and the caustic comments about the hard life Holiday lived help complete the dramatic self-portrait. In all her talk, she honors her inspirations — Louis Armstrong for his feeling, Bessie Smith for her big voice — understandably leaving out Ethel Waters, with whom there was no love lost. She references her sorry episodes of prostitution, and she speaks with a combination of rue and affection of the unreliable men with whom she made risky liaisons. She speaks fondly of her triumphs as well, and the ambition that fueled her rise from the depths which eventually claimed her.

The show has  a few scraps of dialogue with her pianist, played by Jon Stombaugh, and her friend Emerson, the bar proprietor, voiced by producing director Bryan Fonseca. These serve to reinforce the mood of reminiscence as well as to allude to her ongoing health crises, which were to result in her early death at 44.

I leave to the end my misgivings about one long anecdote. It's a matter of tone, but how Cantrell delivered it may have been stipulated in the text. Obviously, I have never experienced racial discrimination. But I was surprised that Billie's story of her being denied use of the toilet in an upscale restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, was treated as an amusing triumph. With the touring Artie Shaw band gamely agreeing to eat with her in the restaurant's kitchen, she had to endure the hostess's denial to her of access to the restroom. So she gleefully recounts her long-delayed response: peeing on the floor, and all over the racist maitresse-d'hotel's shoes. To me, that's a story of thorough humiliation — Billie's, not her appalling antagonist.

Either Robertson's Billie is to be seen as hiding that humiliation, or she truly felt she won the "argument" by her unavoidable letting go. I was relieved (no pun intended) when the singing resumed, even though the vehicle was the indelibly tragic "Strange Fruit." As usual, music often conveys what needs to be conveyed. I'll just have to settle into the puzzle of knowing how to interpret the anecdote that preceded it.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Greatest Generation blues: District Theatre's 'Yank!' gives voice to hidden passions in the World War II U.S. Army

Nothing quite as transformative as a big war happens in most American lives, but beneath the surface there have
Mitch (Tanner Brunson) comforts Stuart (Jonathan Krouse) in "Yank!"
long been other transformations pushing to emerge into full, free view. Yet conformity is always the official requirement, especially to the military mind, and that means that a society's reigning values acquire the force of law. There are no atheists in foxholes, says the adage; and that presumption once covered unconventional sexual orientation as well.

That is the difficulty at the core of "Yank!," a musical of gay romance getting its first local production now at the District Theatre,  the old home of Theatre on the Square, 627 Massachusetts Ave. The product of Joseph Zellnik (music) and David Zellnik (book and lyrics), the show was brought here by Tim Spradlin, a local theater veteran who believes passionately in "Yank!" and directs this production.

Seen Saturday on the District Theatre's Christel DeHaan stage, the performance nearly brought off the complex blend of choreography, song, and drama it requires to make maximum impact. The balance of comedy and pathos was managed vividly and with the intensity the World War II story demands. On a stage of few props and minimal set, slide projections of period photos helped lend suitable context.

The men of Company C celebrate the squad.
In an era when military service was (without the slightest controversy) seen as vital to the nation's survival, young American men had to follow an even stricter model of masculinity than most of them feel today. Yet the prejudices and expectations of 70-plus years ago continue to exert control.

The World War II model required men in service to miss two kinds of women in different ways. There was Mom, and there was the girlfriend. The latter was boosted into fantasy by such Hollywood celebrities as Betty Grable, Lana Turner, and Rita Hayworth, swooned over in publicity photos kept underneath mattresses. Whoever got the enlistees' juices flowing was always assumed to be female. Male bonding was necessary for the sake of survival, but there could be nothing erotic about it.

The illustrative Zellnik song, given the requisite gusto by the cast's Army recruits and draftees of Company C,  is "Your Squad Is Your Squad."  The deliberate redundancy of the song's title is perfect to make the internal rapport of each army unit seem self-evident. But such mutual support and commitment could never extend to the kind of romance that develops between the popular Mitch, adept at "passing" for straight, and Stuart, a shy, clumsy private who keeps a revealing journal that will prove to be his undoing.

In the second act, the shared dream of the two secretive lovers gets an outing in song just before "Your Squad Is Your Squad" commands the stage. It's the dream that Jonathan Krouse (Stuart) and Tanner Brunson (Mitch) sing into being in "A Couple of Regular Guys," a hymn to a blissfully shared post-war life that is never to be. In this song and elsewhere, Krouse and Brunson made the romance come alive and communicated it with an unfaltering depth and energy. The characters' surreptitious behavior seemed as natural as their unguarded moments of free, passionate expression. The story rests on the delicate balance Stuart and Mitch maintain, and the lead-role performances went to the nth degree in making the show work. The interrogation of Stuart approaches torture, and Krouse brought the right intensity to his victimization.

There were difficult ensemble numbers that varied in their security and balance Saturday night, but the vocals, supported by an offstage band, usually hung together well. The score isn't an easy one, and the band, behind a curtain off to one side of the theater's wide stage, often ran into intonation problems.  The edginess of the harmonies, whether intentional or not, certainly underlined the dramatic tension. And coordination between voices and instruments usually hit the bull's-eye. Conductor Michael Davis and vocal director John Phillips trained the musical forces to survey and command the broad landscape well enough to move the story of divided loyalties along and deliver its essence.

Two other notable performances in the dozen-strong cast deserve individual mention. Jessica Hawkins took the role of "Every Woman" — from the era's torch-song stylists and sentimental big-band singers to a role reflecting the same-sex attraction that women also had to hide in order to survive.  She shares her expertise in "Get, Got It, Good." The solo "Blue Twilight" wove a tapestry of romance, and "The Saddest Gal What Am" represented the silly aspect of what so many couples separated by war must have felt deeply.

As Artie, D. Scott Robinson represented the type within military and corporate structures who manage to get what they want, the people who game the system. A photographer for "Yank," the tabloid for servicemen to which Stuart is assigned as reporter, Artie sees Stuart for who he is and pushes back against the naive man's link to the ambivalent Mitch. He's as out as can be, under the circumstances. He knows how to make the less restrictive job of army photographer work for him. The role is a less rascally version of Billis in "South Pacific," less sordid than Milo Minderbinder in "Catch-22." The audience is likely meant to admire Artie's openness and frank assertion of his identity against a repressive system. That's best expressed in "Click," a number that requires precise tap-dance skills that Robinson came close to but the three-man support contingent largely missed.

"Yank!" conveys, from its title on out, the esprit de corps the magazine of the title is supposed to promote, never exposing the horrors of war but always meant to boost morale. It can also be taken as a reminder that inducted soldiers are yanked out of their personal identities and forced to conform in often self-denying ways. That  applies across the board to the military's hostility to individualism; to gay warriors of our parents' and grandparents' generation, the yanking was much more severe. Many peacetime bridges would have to be crossed before more positive transformations could be embraced, though retrograde forces survive.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Svetlin Roussev returns to the ISO schedule for the first time since his IVCI Laureate status got him there in 1998

Svetlin Roussev, the distinguished Bulgarian violinist who has amassed many distinctions since his placement among six International Violin Competition of Indianapolis laureates nearly 21 years ago, made the most of his concerto appearance Friday night with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
Jacob Joyce made dashing impression as a stand-in for ISO's originally scheduled guest.

The "Sounds of Spain" theme allowed him to occupy the guest soloist spotlight with Edouard Lalo's expansive "Symphonie espagnole," op. 21. Across five movements, the Spanish-influenced work by a French composer lives up to its title: It weaves musical threads between violin and orchestra throughout, even though the solo instrument is never out of prominence for long.

The concert was also remarkable for the Classical Series debut of the ISO's associate conductor, Jacob Joyce. The second-in-command staff conductor for music director Krzysztof Urbanski was pressed into service by Bramwell Tovey's cancellation due to a family emergency. (The international blogger Norman Lebrecht noted the substitution in a post yesterday that had Joyce's title wrong and indicated Tovey withdrew because of his personal illness.)

Joyce will conclude his debut weekend in the ISO's premier series today in a Hilbert Circle Theatre concert beginning at 5:30 p.m. The abbreviated Coffee Classical concert Thursday morning started the current focus on the impressively experienced 26-year-old musician; it will continue when Joyce leads the annual Side-by-Side Concert Wednesday. James Johnson, the orchestra's CEO, announced from the stage both the conductor substitution and the ISO's decision to dedicate this weekend's concerts to the memory of Andre Previn.

Roussev and Joyce exhibited a firm partnership throughout "Symphonie espagnole." As I observed in a review of his 2017 IVCI recital at Indiana History Center, Roussev is a deliberate interpreter, exhibiting a full spectrum of sensitivity to the material. The probity of his artistic personality doesn't mean he lacks a feeling of spontaneity, however. There was plenty of fire and tenderness both in his Lalo performance, capped as it was by a fleet rendering of the Rondo finale that brought the audience to its feet.

Bow and baton parallelism symbolizes tightness of Roussev-Joyce partnership
The meeting of minds between conductor and soloist was exemplary. A crucial factor may have been Joyce's achievement as a prize-winning violinist, continuing beyond his student years. I was impressed by how unified the teasing tempo changes in the Scherzando: Allegro molto were, by the deftness of the accompaniment during the Intermezzo: Allegretto non troppo, and by the balanced aptness of the wind-chorale sonorities in the Andante.

When Roussev was not onstage, Joyce and his ISO colleagues exhibited similar affinities. The flashiness of such music as the "Orgia" finale of Turina's "Danzas fantasaticas" didn't interfere with an adroit tying together of the movement's rhythmic patterns.  Throughout the evening, flow was always a vital part of the point, and yet, particularly in Ravel's "Rapsodie espagnole," the distinctness of orchestral voices was given personality and sufficient weight. Soloing hewed to a high standard, including that of guest concertmaster Caroline Goulding, Roger Roe (English horn)  and Robert Danforth (principal horn).

The inevitably stirring suite of dances Manuel de Falla devised from his ballet "The Three-Cornered Hat" had the brio and full-spectrum brilliance of a finale. At nearly 10 o'clock when the orchestra finished it, the suite left the impression of wrapping things up, but there was still a pair of movements from Falla's "La vida breve" to follow. In retrospect the more reflective music, though nicely brought off here, might better have been placed before the orchestra donned that fancy hat.

In any case, a seal was put upon the associate conductor's auspicious main-series debut. Lebrecht seemed to imply that this weekend may give Joyce some of the luster of Leonard Bernstein's 1943 burst into fame with the New York Philharmonic. But we live in different times in a different place, and must take typically modest Midwestern satisfaction in our good fortune.