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Showing posts from November, 2017

Escher String Quartet ascends to the heights of Beethoven in Ensemble Music concert

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The Escher String Quartet offered two Viennese classics plus Ades. "Allegro con spirito" is the movement direction that was clearly embodied as the Escher String Quartet played the first measures of Haydn's String Quartet in G, op. 76, no. 1, on Wednesday evening. There was plenty of spirit, plus an admirably robust sound, which prevailed throughout the work. Presented by Ensemble Music Society , the American ensemble, in residence at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, projected a variegated, sympathetic concept of Haydn at the top of his form in the genre he practically invented. The large audience in the Basile Auditorium of the Indiana History Center took to the Eschers immediately as a result. The warm rapport thus established helped sustain its obvious fascination with the late-20th-century piece that followed, "Arcadiana" by Thomas Ad├Ęs. The English composer wrote this at the beginning of an illustrious career that has carried him to the fore

Happy reunion: Ronen Chamber Ensemble meets UIndy's Faculty Artist Series

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The  sizable 20th-century ensemble pieces that ended each half of Monday night's collaboration between University of Indianapolis and the Ronen Chamber Ensemble presented a polarity that might be found throughout the history of music. On the one hand, the exploratory, extroverted muse of Luciano Berio was represented by his "Folk Songs" (1964). On the other, there was the focused expression of singular personality in Francis Poulenc's Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet (1931). It's almost tempting to put forward an analogy to the ancient Greek aphorism made popular by the 20th-century thinker Isaiah Berlin: "The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing." The fey charms of Poulenc's music don't sit easily with the idea of knowing "one big thing," but the variety he pursued thrives within a small range, bound on one side by his religious devotion, with its touch of sentimentality, and on the other by his insouciance a

Funnier by the dozen?: Phoenix Theatre adds to its 'Xmas' legacy with the final Park Avenue installment

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This is an era of disbelief and unbelief, much of it political. A certain Twitter user can't be believed any more in 280 characters Paul Collier Hansen's Santa casts a skeptical look. than he could in 140. Tax reform that is purported to help ordinary people but glaringly favors corporations and the very rich ratchets up the general skepticism. But the difficulty of holding onto something enduring is part of the age-old Christmas brand, so the holiday fits right in. The challenge extends from "the reason for the season" that's often thrown in our faces right through the values that are wrapped up in gift-giving — a legacy aimed at our wallets as much as our hearts. So it's little wonder that "A Very Phoenix Xmas," the Phoenix Theatre comedy-variety show that just entered its 12th season, puts a lot of the fun it stirs up squarely on the problem of whom and what to believe in. To start with, there's the inevitable encounter with the illu

Delfeayo Marsalis has a pal (or two) in Kalamazoo

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Delfeayo Marsalis is the third-best-known Marsalis brother, and that seems a Paisley on steroids: Sharp dresser Delfeayo Marsalis distinction worth having. As he and his first-rate siblings settle comfortably into middle age, they still benefit from the early tutelage they received from their father, Ellis, who has frequently joined them onstage and for recordings. In "Kalamazoo," ( Troubadour Jass Records) , we get to hear what happened when the trombonist-bandleader, now 52, took his quartet to Western Michigan University for a concert in April 2015. Besides his dad on piano, he brought along bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Ralph Peterson. In the course of the concert, Marsalis has a couple of WMU jazz students sit in on an original blues, "Blue Kalamazoo" — vocalist Christian Diaz and drummer Madison George. The comfort level is high. It's an ingratiating set, full of well-known pieces, except for that localized blues and Delf's "The Secre

Time for a song to celebrate courage and assign shame: Charlie Rose is the latest in astonishing celebrity free falls of male celebrities

Sean Chen explores some musical byways in solo recital for APA at Indiana Landmarks Center

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An out-of-the-way first half set the stage for more familiar repertoire by Maurice Ravel in the second half of Sean Sean Chen brings the little-known to light. Chen' s recital Sunday afternoon at Indiana Landmarks Center . The popular 2013 winner of the American Pianists Association' s classical competition began with little-known, substantial works by two unconventional, early 20th-century composers: Nikolai Medtner of Russia and Federico Mompou of Spain. Catalonia has been much in the news lately with an independence movement that has roiled Spanish politics. Mompou was a Catalan who seemed independent of everyone, countrymen or not. An entry in the 1954 edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians makes him seem like a mystical hermit out of J.R.R. Tolkien.  There may not be any account of a composer in that venerable reference set more bizarre, in which Mompou's music unleashes a host of literary references from the writer, including Robert Browni

A new U.S. senator?: Shelter from the storm is the offer Alabama seems to have extended to Roy Moore

Come In, Roy Moore, We’ll Give You Shelter from the Storm ‘Twas in another lifetime, while building his career He got no satisfaction without a nymphet near. It only came out later he was running true to form. Come in, Roy Moore, we’ll give you         shelter from the storm. So many teenage girls he tended to appall They banned this creepy lawyer from the Gadsden shopping mall. Do you think he was a predator? Well, you’re getting warm! But ’Bama voters want to give him       shelter from the storm. He grew his base when he defied two orders from the court Not to make the halls of justice a Ten Commandments fort. There’s nothing that can stop him, no matter how he’s warned. So Alabama’s poised to give him         shelter from the storm. Of politician sex offenders, he’s offended most: His victims’ testimony was printed in the Post, But that’s just propaganda, made up, it don’t inform, Us Alabama voters offer him    

Indianapolis Opera trains its renewed bright lights upon a repertory staple, Verdi's 'La Traviata'

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The production of "La Traviata" that local opera fans are seeing this weekend at the Tarkington in Carmel reflects the collaborative mood of Indianapolis Opera' s new management. It got some seasoning in Evansville first, just over a week ago,  with orchestra and chorus members from that city. Today it concludes a three-day stand at the Center for the Performing Arts . Violetta (Emily Birsan) gives vent to her joie de vivre at a Paris party. The production team stayed intact, headed by Jon Truitt as stage director, Alfred Savia as conductor. The Evansville conductor, familiar to Indianapolis audiences through his association dating from the 1990s with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, wanted to revive opera in Evansville, where he's led the Evansville Philharmonic for decades. It looks as if there will be a continuing link between opera there and opera here every other year, according to IO's general director, David Craig Starkey. Truitt, who had direc

A plethora of Prokofiev: ISO opens weekend devoted to the Russian composer's piano concertos

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Precocious and independent-minded, Sergei Prokofiev saw his mission as a composer from the keyboard outward. This perspective makes his piano concertos especially revealing of his personality. A restive student who took into adulthood a canny instinct for putting his best foot forward, he produced music that seems to admit no obstacles. In fact, he had to trim his sails upon his return to Stalinist Russia, but he proved able to do that too, despite feeling the regime's hot breath on his neck. Of the five piano concertos he wrote, the three presented Friday night by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra span 20 years on either side of the Revolution whose centenary is being observed this year. Crowning the set was No. 3 in C major, contemporaneous with the Bolshevik crucible out of which a new tyranny emerged from the old. Typically, the work, cobbled together between 1917 and 1921, goes its own glorious way without allusion to the great national struggle. Local favorite Garrick

Brahms showcase: Two principals occupy the spotlight successfully in this weekend's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concerts

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Cellist Austin Huntington: Makes debut as ISO member-soloist. Featured soloists drawn from the orchestra usually don't have to do double duty. But when two principals of string sections are spotlighted in the same concerto, it's no wonder their services as section leaders are too valuable to do without, as is customary when they are featured soloists. So it was in the first of this weekend's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concerts on Thursday morning, when concertmaster Zach De Pue and principal cellist Austin Huntington were on the Hilbert Circle Theatre stage throughout the Coffee Concert. They led their respective sections in Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 101 in D major ("The Clock"), then took up soloist positions to conductor Krzysztof Urbanski's left for Johannes Brahms' Concerto in A minor for Violin, Cello, and Orchestra. (For the remaining concerts keyed to the formidable Brahms "Double," the same composer's Variations on

King's Singers put vocal treasure on display during their golden-anniversary tour stop at Clowes Hall

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Everything was tinged with gold in the King's Singers concert Wednesday night at Clowes Hall. The male a cappella sextet is not long into a 14-month tour in King's Singers: The current personnel of the nearly 50-year-old a cappella masters. celebration of its founding in 1968 at King's College, Cambridge. And if many groups of its kind strike it rich from time to time, the King's Singers are Fort Knox. Though what they offer is the result of discipline and musical insight, the six Englishmen seem to exhibit a kind of unfailing telepathy and spontaneous unanimity. Notes are attacked and released without the slightest blurring, and the sculpting of phrases has the flow and certainty of a master wood carver's. Dynamic variety is lent precisely without any blurting in the texture. Whether the material  has a Renaissance pedigree or comes from its own lifetime, the King's Singers apparently won't rest without getting inside the right musical idiom for e

Red Priest weaves its early-music spell with 21st-century charm at the Tarkington in Carmel

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Red Priest is not your great-great-great-grandfather's early music group. Enough mystery surrounds the life and career of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) that his nickname, the Red Priest, is a natural fit for an unconventional ensemble specializing in music of his era and before. So Red Priest, a British quartet that became known to Indianapolis in the last decade through several appearances under the auspices of the Festival Music Society, returned Saturday night in a more mainstream milieu, the Classical Series of concerts presented this season by the Center for the Performing Arts. "Gypsy Fever," as the group's presentation in the Tarkington was titled, emphasized the allure of Gypsy music for the high and low art of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Red Priest does not shy away from doubling down on the cross-pollination. The last two pieces on the program, as the quartet interpreted two composers at the summit of its repertoire — Handel and Vivaldi —

Butler University launches a new musical-theater initiative with "The Threepenny Opera"

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Buddies across the legal divide: Macheath (Isaiah Moore) and Tiger Brown (Reily Crouse) A famous piece explicitly formed by adaptation is properly subject to further adaptation. Thus, the modifications that audiences at Butler University's production of "The Threepenny Opera" encounter don't fall into the category of "director's opera," in which stipulated settings for the works of Verdi and Wagner, for instance, are sometimes radically altered. In one sense, then, the famous collaboration of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill is always a director's opera whenever it is staged. And so William Fisher's stamp on this production is necessarily embedded in its presentation of the translation by Robert Macdonald (with lyrics spunkily rendered in English by Jeremy Sams). Despite that excellence, I was reminded mainly through James Caraher's conducting of the Indianapolis Opera production of four years ago how pungent and essential Kurt Weill&

Sean Imboden Big Band delivers on its promise as it settles in at the Jazz Kitchen

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I first heard the Sean Imboden Big Band at the Jazz Kitchen in July. and its performance was most Sean Imboden (left) leads his big band with somewhat different personnel earlier this year. promising as a harbinger of excellence to come. With some of the same material and most of the same top-flight personnel, the 17-piece ensemble returned there Wednesday night. A generously proportioned first set showed a firmer architectural approach to writing for a large group than I remembered from last summer. There were some thrilling moments, with trumpets summiting at the right places, but not too often.  I was particularly impressed with the structure of Imboden's "Certified Organic," despite its woolly start. There the leader took one of his rare solos on tenor sax, running a few allusions to "Fascinating Rhythm" before guitarist Joel Tucker picked up a couple of his final phrases to launch his mellifluous solo. When the band returned, the ascent to a majes