Showing posts from March, 2016

'To Know, Know, Know Him Is to Just Get Used to Him": Republicans try to accommodate themselves to Donald Trump's likely nomination to head their ticket

Although next Tuesday's Wisconsin primary may check his momentum somewhat, Donald Trump appears to be unstoppable on his... Posted by Jay Harvey on  Thursday, March 31, 2016

Highlight of Butler ArtsFest's first weekend: Premiere of James Aikman's "Peacemakers" with the ICO and soloists

The crowning achievement of James Aikman 's residency with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra so far is likely to be the premiere of "Peacemakers" at a Butler ArtsFest concert on April 15. This 80-minute "filmic oratorio" gathers together portraits in music and pictures celebrating the legacy of world figures who worked toward peace — work that was cut short by assassination for many of them. In a recent interview, the composer said the idea for the new composition came to him on a solitary walk along Lake Michigan in 2010. Jamie Aikman was moved by the lives and words of great world peacemakers. "I thought of everyone who had worked steadfastly for peace and has been assassinated," Aikman said. "Looking for peace is a dangerous business. I thought, 'Let's keep this idea (of peace) alive — use their words in a piece of music." Initially, the composer planned a work for chorus and orchestra. But the opportunities for a bread

A gift from his Texas days, U Indy's Freddie Mendoza issues Los Jazz Vatos CD

Freddie Mendoza, with his "other" horn When he taught in Texas before coming to the University of Indianapolis last year, Freddie Mendoza was a major composing/performing/arranging force in the band Los Jazz Vatos. The release "El Jefe" ( Lounge Side Records ) is a great exhibition of this sextet, with a few other musicians making cameo appearances. The arrangements are meaty, and everyone crafts solos that get right to the point. The title tune, one of Mendoza's, yields to a Jimmy Shortell trumpet solo that is fully in the spirit of the tune. The ensemble works together cohesively, and the conciseness of the soloing never sounds offhand or short on ideas. It's the essence of what's meant by the kudos "taking care of business." The label's name seems to be addressed in "Ted's Groove," in which the hot temperature of "El Jefe" is lowered to a cool lounge atmosphere. Its four-to-the-bar swing indicates immediat

'Playing the Fool in the Land of Raul' — it's a gas, gas, gas (though it may distort your sense of history)

What happens when the Rolling Stones play a free concert in Havana? For one fan, a bizarre comparison touting the gig's historical importance. My oh my, I feel a song coming on! "Playing the Fool in the Land of Raul": a commentary in song, inspired by the first song in the Rolling Stones' Havana... Posted by Jay Harvey on  Sunday, March 27, 2016

Trump vs. Cruz has gotten so nasty I felt a song coming on; since I call it "They Do Run Run," the inspiration should be obvious

It may be time to crystallize the mud wrestling match of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in a song of my own devising in a performance at the classic karaoke level. They do run run, don't they? Posted by Jay Harvey on  Friday, March 25, 2016

EclecticPond's 'Prometheus Bound' takes Aeschylus up to the Age of Snowden

Ancient Greek religion and its Roman offspring have been both puzzling and fascinating to most of what is  quaintly called Christendom. That tradition, with its fallible, squabbling gods, perpetually interfering with human lives in a way that makes Jehovah look standoffish, seems to defy piety. Once those stories and the complexity of divine natures were turned to artistic purposes, however, they came alive as material that speaks to our dilemmas, right up to the present day. This pertinence is what drives the adaptation of Aeschylus' "Prometheus Bound" that EclecticPond Theatre Company is presenting through April 3 at the Wheeler Arts Community. Hephaestus secures manacles on the prisoner's wrists. Carey Shea, the production's director, had the provocative notion to make Prometheus' offense against the divine order — bringing the gift of fire to humankind — the archetype of the 21st-century exposure of government secrets represented by WikiLeaks and

Assisted by Indianapolis Symphony musicians, Garrick Ohlsson graces the season for the second of three times

As Garrick Ohlsson's solo recital here last fall demonstrated, he is a pianist with the verve of a youngster and the good manners and elegance of a venerable master. These qualities were also evident here Sunday in collaboration with four members of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, in a co-presentation with the American Pianists Association in Indiana Landmarks Center 's Grand Hall. Garrick Ohlsson will return to town in June as a concerto soloist. Major works for piano and strings were the focus. Both of them are complex, generously proportioned pieces in four movements: Beethoven's Trio No. 6 in E-flat, op. 70, no. 2, and Brahms Quintet in F minor, op. 34. Among the large Brahms legacy of compositional second thoughts, the quintet began life as a strings-only work, then passed through a two-piano version that attained some currency among Brahms' friends for several years. What the composer seems to have been seeking was an instrumental combination th

Indianapolis Opera's "Mansfield Park": Giving voice to the love affairs of the landed gentry in the Regency period

"Mansfield Park" seems an apt symbol of Indianapolis Opera' s change of focus and direction: Keep the professionalism intact, but apply it in more contained ways, using fewer resources, to works without conventional marquee appeal. 'Mansfield Park' cast sings a choral resolution of the matter. The run of this 2011 opera in its U.S. premiere finished Sunday at Butler University 's Schrott Center. Jane Austen has a different kind of marquee appeal, and it's a safe bet that people who had never heard of the opera's composer, Jonathan Dove, were drawn to take a chance on the operatic realization of one of the English author's six novels. Within its carefully set limits, "Mansfield Park" is a work scrupulously attentive to the social resonance of a properly contracted marriage in Regency England . This operatic adaptation, with a libretto by Alisdair Middleton, has a similar conscientiousness about bringing forward the Austen story — a

The ISO's singular concert this weekend: Outsize display of dance, comedy, and phenomenal playing by a clarinet virtuoso

Concertos for solo instrument and orchestra have a long history of being opportunities for display by the soloist.  Many such works in the Romantic era have been interpreted as contests between soloist and orchestra. The work given its American premiere Friday night at an Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concert was more like an effusive game under the spirited officiating of guest conductor Santtu-Mathias Rouvali. Kriikku made an indelible impression. And it was a game that guest artist Kari Kriikku won in a walk — and a dance, and a shuffle, and a slide or two, in addition to some amazing clarinet-playing. The Finnish musician commissioned a Clarinet Concerto from his countryman Kimmo Hakola in 2001. As he noted in a preconcert interview by Blake Schlabach, ISO assistant principal trombonist, the score was a mystery to him until Hakola at length delivered it to him. There had been no consultation or collaboration along the way. Hakola must have known something about the comm

Composer of 'Mansfield Park' discovered the novel 'asked itself to be made in the opera'

Jane Austen's powers of observation, her sense of humor, and her nuanced delineation of character suggest some of the difficulties — and temptations — of adapting her novels for the stage. Jonathan Dove feels 'Mansfield Park' told him it needed an opera. Opera, which enforces refinement and concentration on sources from prose fiction, is a hard taskmaster for anyone tackling such a project. But Jonathan Dove and his librettist, Alasdair Middleton, took on the challenge with "Mansfield Park." According to the English composer, interviewed at the Basile Opera Center on Monday: "'Emma' and 'Pride and Prejudice' are the Austen novels I liked most. But I never heard music with those books. But there was something incomplete about 'Mansfield Park.' It asked itself to be made into an opera." Dove, in town for the American professional premiere of the work by Indianapolis Opera , explains it this way: Fanny Price, the heroine, i

Chamber music rapport at the summit: Lincoln Center ensemble visits Indianapolis, thanks to the Ensemble Music Society

At the highest level, chamber music before the public pushes to the top the traditional small-group configurations: piano trio, wind quintet, string quartet. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center group that appeared here. This keeps a lot of masterpieces before music lovers, but may leave many worthy pieces for other than conventional combinations out of consideration. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is a long-running corrective to such exclusions. It can also explore musical forms that adapt well to smaller ensembles, such as concertos. Two of those made up the bulk of the Lincoln Center group's concert Wednesday night at the Indiana History Center. In its next-to-last offering of the 2015-16 season, Ensemble Music Society filled the hall for a program of Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn. The concerted works included Rondo in A major for Violin and Strings, D. 438, which the precocious Franz Schubert wrote for his brother Ferdinand. Sean Lee was the

Another set of Republican primaries, another lurch forward toward the nomination of Donald Trump. The GOP looks deep into its soul (covering a soul classic along the way) for an explanation

Faced with the prospect of uniting behind Donald Trump, the GOP establishment channels its inner Percy Sledge (not easy to find!) to deliver this soulful lament. Posted by Jay Harvey on  Wednesday, March 16, 2016

At Indiana Repertory Theatre, August Wilson's cycle of plays set on The Hill aims for 'Fences' once again

Steeped in recorded blues and black gospel music when the stage action pauses, Indiana Repertory Theatre' s "Fences" has parallels to music in its fondness for refrains as well as free fantasias. Characters spin stories of ambition and survival into the ether, but also find themselves repeatedly grounded, serving detention in the school of hard knocks. Troy Maxson and Jim Bono share laughs and booze after work. In his 2012 direction of IRT's "Radio Golf," another in August Wilson's 10-play cycle of 20th-century life in a Pittsburgh district called the Hill, Lou Bellamy displayed what I called "an almost symphonic feeling for contrast." By that I meant a way of pitting opposite themes against each other and achieving the kind of challenging moral blend characteristic of Wilson's work. As seen Tuesday night, there's an exuberance about this process that was immediately captured as a laughing Troy Maxson (David Alan Anderson) and

Reading as a useful check on action: Actors' Playground brings Winnie Hoffman's "Choice" to Indy Reads Books

For the theater community, saving money is just one of the attractions of a public play reading. Indispensable as a production team is for real theater to take place, the cozy minimalism of a reading jettisons that requirement. Constance Macy and Jen Johansen played middle-aged journalist friends in "Choice." With Indy Actors' Playground at Indy Reads Books, a further attraction is the actors' selection of scripts to present. There is an investment by the selecting actor and his/her colleagues in putting across dramas they love to an audience of devotees. Pure collegiality joins forces with skill in acting with the voice alone, with a minimum of gesture. Balancing this advantage, the actors accept the artificiality of holding notebooks and sitting in a row, working within these constraints to bring the work off as authentically as possible. The March presentation on Monday was Winnie Hoffman's "Choice," selected by Constance Macy and read by h

Two guest soloists provide extra focus for ISO's Hispanic program

Andrey Boreyko is music director of orchestras in Belgium and Naples, Fla. Ethnic themes  are a dependable way of focusing attention on Classical Series programs. This weekend the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra turns its attention to Spain and one of the countries that emerged from Spanish settlement in the New World. Andrey Boreyko is the guest conductor, and both major works (in concerts Thursday and Friday nights and this afternoon at 5:30) have  capable soloists: Mark Kosower, principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra, is featured in Richard Strauss' "Don Quixote." and mezzo-soprano Barbara Rearick is the soloist in Manuel de Falla's "El amor brujo" (Love the Magician). Friday's Hilbert Circle Theatre audience was boosted in its response by the presence of the high-school musicians in the Honor Orchestra of America, one of three ensembles that are part of Yamaha's Music for All National Festival. The Honor Orchestra played a shor

At the Phoenix Theatre, Steven Dietz's new play shows where strained family values and cult allure meet "On Clover Road"

Stine tells Kate how the mother-daughter reunion must go down. It's not hard for a parent's idea of the relationship with a child to overtake the actual relationship. So much idealism is invested in it, along with the expectation – even the duty — of control. When the disparity becomes too great, what's really going on between generations can be totally obscured, leading to a sudden family rupture. That's what Kate Hunter faces  in "On Clover Road," Phoenix Theatre' s latest National New Play Network "rolling world premiere" production. A single mom keeping personal demons at bay, she has been searching for her runaway daughter for four years. The daughter, Jessica, has been taken up by a religious cult, and, at the end of her rope, Kate engages an "exit counselor" to get her back. Steven Dietz applies his skill at dramatizing deeply conflicted emotional states to the vexed topic of runaway children and the cults that feed on th

Remember when a hippie band asked us if we believed in magic? That may be necessary in 2016 for anyone to believe in voting.

For anyone appalled by the tone and substance of the presidential campaign so far, this may indeed be the Year of... Posted by Jay Harvey on  Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Eric Lu concludes the solo piano-recital series "Grand Encounters" with power and panache

Successful in the jousting universe of piano competitions, Eric Lu has crowded a host of honors into his teenage years. Eric Lu studies at the Curtis Institute. Sunday afternoon at Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall of Butler University, the 19-year-old American pianist showed much of the sturdy, agile command of the mainstream repertoire that contest winners must have. But he gave evidence of something more, too: He seemed to have ideas about Chopin, Bach, and Schubert that he unfailingly applied with imagination and a valiant spirit. The American Pianists Association presented Lu at the conclusion of the 2015-16 "Grand Encounters" series of solo recitals. He did not seem out of place under a banner that has also included Garrick Ohlsson and Frederic Chiu this season. EDRH is an acoustically bright room. However thrilling that can be when the performance level is this high, it made it hard to be sure of Lu's gifts at the quieter end of the dynamic spectrum. But his c

ISO's Russian program reaches the heights with Bianconi and Urbanski

So much attention is  paid to Dmitri Shostakovich as a Soviet composer that it's all too easy to underestimate his identity as a Russian composer. It's not irrelevant in listening to or discussing his music to consider his integrity resisting the system that made life difficult for him and his countrymen over several decades. But his roots are in Russian soil. There's no such thing as Soviet soil. Placing a major Shostakovich work (Symphony No. 10 in E minor) against one by an older contemporary who chose exile instead of Philippe Bianconi was supreme in Rachmaninoff. uneasy accommodation to the regime illuminates the Russian character of both him and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Melodies often speak volumes within a narrow range; release is often as important as attack from phrase to phrase. There is an Oriental cast to many of them, as was suggested by revelatory oboe, flute and bassoon solos in the first part of the Shostakovich finale. The Indianapolis Symphony Orches

Silver medalist Stefan Milenkovich returns in IVCI's Laureate Series in duo with accordionist Marko Hatlak

Marko Hatlak (left) and Stefan Milenkovich played an informal concert for IVCI. Stefan Milenkovich remains the youngest person ever designated a laureate in the history of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. At 17, the Serbian-Italian violinist took the silver medal in the IVCI, and everyone was impressed with the teen's aplomb, interpretive vigor, and the fine finish of this artistry. He has progressed smoothly into an adult career, anchored a position as associate professor at the University of Illinois, and has developed a wide range of active musical interests. One branch of those interests has placed him since 2011 in a musical partnership with Marko Hatlak, a Slovenian accordionist who has also been his collaborator in tango ensembles. Tango was the bedrock of a duo recital Hatlak and Milenkovich presented to a sold-out Cook Theater audience Tuesday evening at the Indiana Landmarks Center. As practiced by Astor Piazzolla under the designation "