Friday, June 12, 2015

Matthew Kraemer introduces himself as ICO music director to the community at large

Holliday Park was the setting for a light-classical concert Thursday night by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, which acquitted itself well despite scant rehearsal time under the baton of its new music director, Matthew Kraemer.

Indiana native Matthew Kraemer officially begins ICO duties in July.
Kraemer will be returning to a community he was well-acquainted with years ago as a Butler University student, graduating before advanced studies at the University of Nevada. He has recently held appointments with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra (associate conductor) and, in northwestern Pennsylvania, the Erie Chamber Orchestra.

Conductors need to talk to audiences more than they used to — particularly in informal settings. On Thursday, Kraemer was good at that, keeping it light and not long-winded.  He was attentive to the orchestra's sound, and smartly saw the need for a tuning pause after Leroy Anderson's "Serenata."

He was not all about wowing the crowd in his selections. Subtle, mild-mannered pieces like the "Intermezzo" from Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream" and Anderson's "Saraband" were put among familiar, tender-minded items like Grainger's "Irish Tune from County Derry" ("O Danny Boy") and the "Midsummer Night's Dream" Nocturne, featuring a warm French horn solo by Darin Sorley.

I didn't care for the arrangement of Gershwin's "Strike Up the Band," with its incongruous "Latin" episodes, but it contributed effectively to the peppy side of the program. Low-key pep opened the concert in Mozart's Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro." And pep at a more strenuous level (with stress for the ICO's two percussionists) concluded it: "Lord of the Dance" selections that had little kids throughout the audience getting into the dance spirit.

Pop-culture appropriation of classical melodies, alluded to in Kraemer's remarks, helped smooth the way for newcomers with the Toreador March from Bizet's "Carmen" and Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5 (paired with its neighbor, No. 6). The tempo changes in this folk-derived music were neatly managed. The upbeat mood intended by the ICO to sell itself to the general public was established by the curtain-raiser, the Overture to Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro," and was well-defined by the time Johann Strauss Jr.'s "Tritsch-Tratsch Polka" sent lots of coordinated zest into the warm evening air.