Showing posts from January, 2020

Making good decades later on his 1990 Gold Medal, Pavel Berman plays concert for IVCI

Pavel Berman divided his program between violin recital and chamber music. Thirty years ago, Pavel Berman, a participant in the third quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis , had come out of the soon-to-dissolve Soviet Union illustrating all the careful preparation and solid technical grounding the West had come to expect of musicians steeped in the rigors of Russian training. The 20-year-old violinist captured the Gold Medal and has returned to Indianapolis just once since then. In the meantime, he has enjoyed years of experience as concert artist and teacher. For about eight years starting in 1998, there was also considerable experience on the podium leading an orchestra he had founded in Lithuania. On the evidence of his appearance in the IVCI Laureate Series Tuesday night, Berman has put the time since his triumph here to good use. He has put a masterly finish on his impressive command of a variety of repertoire during two intense September weeks three

Nearly 30 years after winning the Gold Medal, Pavel Berman returns to Indianapolis for only the second time

Having just turned 50, Pavel Berman has firm plans for the next phase of his career. In a brief, rare visit to the United States, the gold medalist of the 1990 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis i s back in town under IVCI auspices to appear in its Laureate Series Tuesday night at the Glick Indiana History Center. Consistent with his wish to put the violin at the center of his activities and to explore a variety of music for this instrument in combination with others,  the violinist has established the Pavel Berman Ensemble near his home in Italy, where he's lived for many years. From that base, the ensemble will undertake short European tours. Pavel Berman has focused on teaching as well as performing over the past 30 years. "We will play pieces like Tchaikovsky 'Souvenir de Florence,' a Brahms sextet, Schoenberg's 'Verklaerte Nacht,' and also baroque concertos," he said, adding that the programs will feature him as soloist in vi

Getting down with upscale: 'Salt Pepper Ketchup' tackles urban gentrfication

In its current production, Fonseca Theatre Company has made a chamber opera out of the spoken word on the topic of gentrification. It's a hard-hitting blend of arias and ensembles, punctuated by violence of language and action. Josh Wilder's "Salt Pepper Ketchup" has just another week to go at the company's cozily proportioned new home on West Michigan Street. This kind of show, at home in Daniel Uhde's set design, benefits from the compact focus the space lends to the action. At FTC's Christmas show, I had serious doubts as to whether the space available would ever see any sort of variety show with humor, song, and dance seemto be at home: Pizazz with its shoulders scrunched barely works. That remains to be seen, of course, and I trust Bryan Fonseca's imagination to to come up with solutions more than my mere speculation as FTC builds a production history. For the time being, however, "Salt Pepper Ketchup" seems both snug and explosive

Aggressive title aside, ICO's 'Dominance and Defiance' could have won anyone over

Her full investment in a recent concerto was evident. The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra on Saturday weighed in with the obligatory tribute to Beethoven in his 250th anniversary year, but the performance of the Symphony No. 8 in F major, op. 93, conveyed much more than a sense of obligation. In common with the other two pieces on the program at Butler University's Schrott Center for the Arts, the Beethoven salute had a feeling of genuine commitment, even touches of rapture. Matthew Kraemer conducted an account that was straightforward, free of mannerisms, and responsive to the work's variety of texture and mood. The notable replacement of the conventional slow movement by an "Allegretto scherzando," with its pervasive ticking, was droll enough to avoid the purely mechanical. The look backward to the minuet, which Beethoven had earlier transformed into third-movement scherzos, had simply the touch of nostalgia at which the ICO hinted in its concert marketing. B

Fraternal twins: Beethoven's fourth and fifth symphonies bring the first chapter of ISO's 'BTHVN2020' to a close

So, here we have it: the classical-music icon, the work that could be identified by the packed-together name "Beethoven'sFifth," the musical objective correlative of triumph, and our grandparents' indelible notion of a Victory Symphony, because its generating motif of three short notes and one long one corresponds to the Morse code for "V." During World War II, that famous beginning was officially Allied propaganda. But it was already well-known, and has thus come to symbolize classical music to many people in blissful ignorance of all that the term embraces.  It probably still tops "O Fortuna!" from "Carmina Burana" and "Nessun dorma" from "Turandot" in terms of mass familiarity. Yet it's a remote monument to many who are otherwise wholly at the mercy of pop culture. Once, as a young teacher, I exposed my high-school English class to the opening of Stravinsky's "L'histoire du Soldat," with re

Polish orchestra visits, with a much-laureled Western Hemisphere conductor on the podium

Giancarlo Guerrero showed his pizazz and control. I kept resisting comparisons to Leonard Bernstein that popped up in my head as I watched Giancarlo Guerrero conduct the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Thursday night at the Palladium . But images of the venerated American conductor leading his New York Philharmonic are still vivid to me several decades after attending their concert at the Meadow Brook Music Festival near Detroit. Gesturally flamboyant and with an astute actor's range of facial expression, Guerrero had tempted me to draw the parallel throughout the scheduled program of Szymanowski, Bartok, and Brahms. But it was his showmanship in the two encores that cemented the comparison. Just as Bernstein had stood vibrating and twitching while the orchestra with which he made his reputation dashed off his Overture to "Candide," Guerrero set aside conducting in all but a few places during predictably spirited accounts of Dvorak's Slavonic Dance No. 8 and Johann S

In-the-moment done deals: The joy of an Indy Actors' Playground cold reading

For years, two critiques of theater by famous novelists have stuck in my craw, and I can't say that either one is easy to dismiss. I can minimize them, though. So I was happy to be confirmed in my belief in the viability of stage drama by the richness of Indy Actors' Playground 's January "cold reading" last night. Attempts by John Updike and Martin Amis to disparage theater rest on two different foundations, both of them worth considering, yet faulty. Lou Harry and Paul Hansen, co-masters of these long-running revels, once a year depart from the format of a reading chosen by one actor, who selects a cast of fellow readers; then the ad hoc troupe comes to the Playground with minimal to no rehearsal.  In IAP's "cold cold reading," actors are invited to participate by the founders and handed an envelope with their parts marked. It's showtime. Until a given signal to begin, they don't know what's inside. Monday's show, an amusing bu

IRT's 'Morning After Grace' brings some unresolved difficulties of older lives to the fore

Angus and Abigail confront the meaning of their night together. Some people feel a calling to be helpful to others. Some feel a calling to have others help them. Often they are the same people, which gets complicated. There was a lot of this in my generation, where my place was at the front end of the life stage that grips the three characters in "Morning After Grace," a knotty comedy by Carey Crim now in production at Indiana Repertory Theatre. We mixed up selflessness and selfishness, imagining we were tearing down walls. Let me tell you a story: In graduate school, I joined a T-group, shorthand for a sensitivity training group, which enjoyed a vogue in the late 1960s. We went deep into each other's lives in regular meetings, guided by a professional counselor. A half-dozen or so of us anxious scholars, approaching the end of the paid-for sessions, were feeling incipient separation anxiety. The bond we were so certain of had been created and sustained largely th

Summit Performance's 'Be Here Now': An eerie comedy about how we shape identity and construct meaning

Carrie Ann Schlatter is one of several actors Indianapolis is fortunate to have who trigger our empathy the moment they appear onstage. In "Be Here Now," the Summit Performance production I saw Saturday night at the Phoenix's Basile Theater, it happened again. I thought: I don't know what is going on with this character, but I'm there . Bemused co-workers Patty and Luanne listen to Bari's perspective. That was in the first scene, when the voice of Georgeana Smith Wade as a yoga instructor booms the play's title, a phrase associated with a book by the late self-help guru Ram Dass, then proceeds with patiently intoned instructions. Schlatter's Bari, the troubled heroine of Deborah Zoe Laufer's play, is not having it. Two fellow practitioners, who we soon find out are her co-workers at a small-town "fulfillment center" (wrapping up various gewgaws, gimcrack and mass-produced talismans to be shipped out upon order), are fully invested i

Week #2 of "BTHVN2020": Sublime Eroica, revealing Triple Concerto, zesty new piece

It took me a week to discern that the sculpture under the name of the honoree in the  Hilbert Circle Theatre lobby Krzysztof Urbanski: Led an "Eroica" of lasting stature. was not abstract and Calderesque but a portrait in floating white shapes of Ludwig van Beethoven himself. Such is the price of glossing over some details while focusing on others — which may indeed deserve your focus, but still.... Why not pay attention to everything? one asks oneself as age forces the realization that there is not much time left. The music on offer this weekend (there's a repeat this afternoon, which I heartily recommend) captivated me thoroughly, apart from mild annoyance that there's too much note-spinning in the finale of Beethoven's "Triple" Concerto, which occupied most of the first half of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 's program. Dejan Lazic: His commissioned piece captures Beethoven's rowdy side. My attention was riveted from the st

The Terrorists' Lament: A songful account of a meeting between a Trumper and Pelosi/Schumer in disguise

'Music made him' and he made music for Indianapolis: ISO pays memorial tribute to Raymond Leppard

For me as an arts reporter, Raymond Leppard was a dream source. Affable and accessible in person, sometimes At his start here: Leppard at Circle Theatre to the discomfort of his administrative counterpart, he was always good for an informed, candid opinion about the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the broader situation of classical music in the late 20th century. He thought that "Yuletide Celebration" and most contemporary serious music each in its own way detrimental. Insight into why his accessibility was so delightful  over the nearly nine years I covered the ISO part of his career was confirmed by several speakers at "A Celebration of Raymond Leppard," a memorial tribute program Monday at Hilbert Circle Theatre. The conductor-scholar-harpsichordist died in October at his Indianapolis home. Several people who knew him much better than I spoke at the nicely planned, extensive combination of words and music. As ISO CEO James Johnson said in wrapping

Indy Jazz Foundation ramps up impresario role with recording project, 'The Naptown Sound'

For two nights running this weekend, the Jazz Kitchen played host to a gathering of many of the top musicians in Central Indiana to showcase "The Naptown Sound." The umbrella term may suffice to build interest in a recording that's set to emerge from four sets Friday and Saturday, with sponsorship from Indianapolis Jazz Foundation and Yats , the local Creole restaurant chain whose mother ship has long docked just south of the jazz club on College Avenue. Certainly the live performances themselves must have advanced the cause. Attending the first set Saturday, I found there was just enough design to the program, but not too much to seem to inhibit spontaneity of either performance or response. The Indy Jazz Collective got things going, with its flexible size pretty much at a comfortable maximum. The front line of leader Rob Dixon and Sophie Faught, tenor saxes, trombonist Freddie Mendoza and trumpeter/flugelhornists Marlin McKay and Mark Buselli, made sturdy work of &

Putting on their anniversary best: ISO opens a long-running celebration of Beethoven

In the lobby, his name in all caps hangs above a white-cloud sculpture seemingly inspired by Alexander Calder's mobiles, the work of a University of Indianapolis art-department team. The pre-concert crowd milled expectantly around, swelled by infrequent symphony attenders drawn by the name and music of the honoree. Beethoven aloft: The Hilbert Circle Theatre lobby The occasion was Friday's launch at Hilbert Circle Theatre of BTHVN2020, the vowel-less, freeze-dried signal for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 's celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven's 250th birth year. Just add passion and preparation and stir. But how should an observer proceed? How to welcome the inevitable celebration in a focused manner as BTHVN2020 gets under way? I feel somewhat akin to Stephen Leacock's Lord Ronald, who after a quarrel with his father "flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions." Here's part of the p

So the Democratic debate stage, partly reinforced by the narrowing offstage field, shows us a Whiter Shade of Pale

Getting into the heads of Trump rally crowds: They gotta get some of his lovin' every day

Dance Kaleidoscope displays perfect 2020 vision as it opens New Year with 'La Vie on Broadway'

It was fun to revisit the mixed messages about love and related struggles in "Piaf: A Celebration" as Dance Kaleidoscope put a jaunty cap on "La Vie on Broadway" Thursday night on Indiana Repertory Theatre's Upperstage. "Piaf: A Celebration" was introduced by David Hochoy and DK at the 2011 Indy Fringe Festival, and was notably revamped for a much different stage and milieu in 2017, as it was zestfully repeated in Carmel at the Tarkington (Center for the Performing Arts) . Street scene: The troupe opens David Hochoy's  "Piaf: A Celebration." A wry observer of her beloved Paris as well as a commentator on personal vicissitudes, Piaf sang her songs in a distinctive throaty voice, which often managed to sound both strained and nonchalant. This odd blend of qualities comes through in Hochoy's choreography, which draws upon Piaf's distinctive style wittily and insightfully. The raucous comedy of "Bravo Pour le Clown,&quo