|Indiana native Matthew Kraemer officially begins ICO duties in July.|
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.