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Showing posts from 2024

Dover Quartet's new violist and her colleagues have artistry shaped by Curtis

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Philadelphia's Curtis Institute, long among the most prestigious American conservatories for advanced musical education, generated the Dover Quartet , which comes to Indianapolis March 13 under the auspices of the Ensemble Music Society.   (The concert, with music by Turina, Schubert, and Janacek, is at the Indiana History Center.) A few years before the quartet's formation in 2008, Julianne Lee had graduated with a double major in violin and viola. She launched her career as an orchestra player, becoming a first-desk violinist in the Boston Symphony and the Boston Pops orchestras.  Dover Quartet on the move: Camden Shaw, Julianne Lee, Bryan Lee, and Joel Link.  At the beginning of the current school year, she renewed her Curtis connection again as the Dover's new violist . Her new colleagues are Curtis-educated founders of the ensemble, whose Indianapolis appearances go back to 2019. The Dovers have a residency at Curtis, a teaching and performing home base from which the

Cyrus Chestnut for APA: Giving puckish charm and floridity to jazz-piano roots

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Cyrus Chestnut focuses in Sunday's first set.  His recorded history, building a lot of his music out of the black church, confirms Cyrus Chestnut 's solid basis as a pianist worth including in the American Pianists Association 's Grand Encounters series. The APA presented the now-veteran pianist from Baltimore  in two sets Saturday night at the Jazz Kitchen . Over the past 30 years in recordings, I've been impressed by Chestnut's old-soul piano style and his imaginative, personalized extension of that kind of brio and intensity. He gets into quotation and paraphrase, but not excessively, and can come up with filigree that grows naturally out of a tune's basic narrative. Tending to nourishment of the roots never seems far from his mind. As demonstrated in the first set, too, he enjoys exploiting the whole keyboard, making every register ring out in its characteristic fashion. On "Breezin'," he followed wittily, with aggressive left-hand octaves, upo

ISO: Choral masterpieces pose effective contrast of spiritual and secular values

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The perpetual seesaw of sacred and profane, which rocks this weekend's Classical Series concerts of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra , makes for special excitement.  Igor Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms," not performed by the ISO since 1982, occupies the program's first half with its spiky, austere reverence. Recoiling from the lavish writing for orchestra that brought him fame before World War I, the Russian composer moved into a restrained style that also eschewed Romantic expressiveness. As the ISO program note points out, he was even explicit about music's inability to express anything but itself.  Yet "Symphony of Psalms" is quite moving especially in the third section, where the music certainly Austrian conductor Hans Graf seems to have lots to say about the texts. In these performances, those are projected overhead so the audience can easily follow along throughout both works on the program.  Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana," a

ISO season moves into a new era with a new music director

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With anecdotal reports coming in at high praise, it's likely that Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra audiences in 2024-25 will hear the enthusiasm the musicians have for the rec Mario Venzago, whose exit as ISO maestro was contentious ent appointment of Jun Märkl as the orchestra's eighth music director. In this first season under his artistic leadership of the Classical Series, Märkl will conduct six subscription weekends. The first weekend of his conducting in his new role will be Jan. 16-18 in a program of Beethoven's 7th Symphony and Manuel de Falla's "Three-Cornered Hat" ballet music.  Beginning with a return to the Hilbert Circle Theater podium by Mario Venzago, the sixth music director of the ISO, at the annual Gala Concert Sept. 28, the season will end with  Märkl conducting Beethoven's "Choral" Symphony, No. 9 in D minor, on June 20-21, featuring four vocal soloists and the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. The concert will be filled out with t

Mining its region for musical gold, Danish String Quartet visits again

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 The trimmings were in Valentine's Day red, but the precious metal on this visit by the Danish String Quartet was the pure gold of the ensemble's arrangements of Nordic and North Atlantic folk music. Attracting a large crowd Wednesday evening at Indiana Landmarks Center, the top-drawer  DSQ devoted its concert's second half to that growing part of its repertoire. Danish String Quartet paid its third visit here. There was the first appearance in its touring of the Hardanger fiddle, a Norwegian violin and a matter of intense pride. Frederik Øland played the ancient folk instrument in a generous second-half stretch of the concert. Its eight strings, four of them sympathetic (resonating to the activated four), have helped give rise to the affectionate mockery Øland summed up as Hardanger fiddlers spending half their lives tuning and the other half playing out of tune. He got it right, however, avoiding that legendary lifelong musical task of Sisyphus.  I found especially fetc

To play Beethoven, Augustin Hadelich returns to the arena of his triumph

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Decades ago, the leading American concert violinist Isaac Stern appeared as a talk-show guest and talked briefly about audience behavior. He told of a time he was playing the Beethoven concerto, and during the second movement— which "goes straight up to heaven," I remember him saying — he noticed that a woman in the front row had draped her coat over the edge of the stage. Stern continued, of course, but reported  being annoyed at the sight of that coat. "That's my space!" he exclaimed justifiably of the stage he and the orchestra had occupied.  I bring that up in this account of Augustin Hadelich 's performance Friday night of the  same concerto with IVCI gold medalist Hadelich has a host of fans here. the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, with Vladimir Kulenovic on the podium. (A second performance happens this afternoon at 5:30.) It's relevant because not only is there a spiritual dimension in Beethoven's Larghetto that Hadelich and the orchestr

'Queen' takes audience into macro matters of survival through prism of private life

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I can't think of many plays where the actors must master characterizations that present them as knowledgeable about arcane matters. "Queen" is an exception, and if it weren't for clarity of context, the audience at Summit Performance Indianapolis 's new show might almost need a glossary to understand "bee colony collapse," neonics, threshold effect, oversampling data,  trading derivatives and, for many, the intricacies of poker. It's taken me a while to understand confirmation bias, but at least I was in the neighborhood of getting it before attending the final dress rehearsal of "Queen," which opens tonight at Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centr e. And I knew how to interpret "NRDC" because I used to be a donor to the National Resources Defense Council. Thank goodness for the North Star of All Truth, that's Google, for giving more substance to my quickly processed impressions of this enthralling drama about friendship, academic co

'Romeo and Juliet': Collaboration of ballet and orchestra launched for May production

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Don Steffy, Kevin Lin, Yoshiko Kamikusa, and James Johnson flank ballet and orchestra maestri Victoria Lyras and Jack Everly at event celebrating forthcoming "Romeo and Juliet" production.  Seven seasons into Indianapolis Ballet' s existence and 90-plus seasons into Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 's continuous presence here, the two performing forces will work together to produce "Romeo and Juliet," a ballet based on Shakespeare's romantic tragedy using Sergei Prokofiev's score, on the first weekend of the city's storied month of May. At a celebration of the collaboration Tuesday at the home of Jackie Nytes, a board member of both organizations, the venture was hailed by IB's founding artistic director Victoria Lyras as something that mostly makes her "so happy for my dancers — there's nothing like working with an orchestra....You feel this music more: I love it more than the choreography." Out of discussions between the two or

Dave Stryker takes his music up the road to the Jazz Kitchen

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 Dave Stryker has capped his deeply rooted career in jazz guitar with academic credentials, including a Rachel Caswell guests, flanked by Dave Stryker and Rob Dixon.    well-established presence in Bloomington on the jazz faculty of Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. That's just one of three connections as an educator to put beside his recent addition to an  online school . His well-schooled playing is not academic in any disparaging sense, however.  Though well established in New York City for many years, Stryker drew upon Hoosier connections and a Louisville link for a return to the Jazz Kitchen Friday night. Sean Dobbins , a fellow adjunct professor at IU, was on drums, and their colleague Rachel Caswell joined the band for two numbers during the set I heard. Rob Dixon represented the home front on tenor sax, and Kentuckian Kendall "Keyz" Carter completed the traditional format on organ.  Stryker's completeness as a bandleader was always evident.

'Honored and touched' by new status, Jun Märkl conducts all-Strauss program

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An intermission video presented a relaxed Jun Märkl introducing himself to Indianapolis, and that was Jun Märkl is a native of Munich, Germany, son of musician parents. capped by a short speech of gratitude at the start of the second half. The occasion Friday night was the historic launch of his five-year term as the eighth music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra . It had all the hallmarks of a special occasion from the moment Märkl  entered the stage at the concert's start, looking immaculately elegant in traditional white tie and tails.  The conventional garb has rarely been seen in recent years here, but there can be no doubt that Märkl  will live up to that dressy standard in the likely polish and careful preparation of the ISO concerts he conducts. The energy of the overall narrative in "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" was palpable from the opening atmosphere setting of a "once-upon-a-time" mood. The ISO performed with a full measure o

ALT's "The Minutes': When legend becomes fact, print the legend

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It's not often that a trigger warning given by a play's director in advance comes close to being a spoiler. But that's just the start of specifics I need to avoid in writing about "The Minutes," the Tracy Letts play in one long act exploring city-council machinations in a prairie town with lots to hide. This review's title, borrowing a famous movie line , comes about as close as I dare. My main business must be to praise the strong ensemble performance Chris Saunders generated from his cast on opening night Thursday at Phoenix Theatre 's Russell Stage. "The Minutes" extends the impressive run of American Lives Theatre, of which Saunders is the founding artistic director. Dentist and new councilor Peel works hard to extract the truth. In its heyday in its old church home under the guidance of Bryan Fonseca, the Phoenix mounted an excellent production of Letts' most famous play, "August: Osage County." Two of his other plays, both p

Annual collaboration between EMS and IVCI bears fruit again

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The annual collaboration between two well-run musical organizations that focus on individuality came off splendidly again Wednesday night at Indiana Landmarks Center . The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center , with two previous local engagements, both in 2016, was the marquee attraction as Ensemble Music Society and the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis  continued their partnership and combined their large loyal audiences for a program of Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Dvorak. Pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel were at the center of the concert. A married couple who also direct CMS and often perform together, they were in the spotlight for Dmitri Shostakovich's Cello Sonata in D minor. Their vivid performance of a composition from the Russian composer's middle period, during which the difficulty of creative freedom in the Soviet Union became severe, had the requisite sparkle and flashes of intensity. Wu Han and David Finckel: classical music's power

Under contract for the long term, Jun Märkl looks ahead with ISO

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Jun Märkl: Master of detail as well as the big arc Between now and September 1, Jun Märkl will be deepening his already extensive connection with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra .  Newly signed to a five-year contract as the orchestra's eighth music director, the native of Munich, Germany, draws upon deep experience here and abroad to move from artistic advisor to a more complete and powerful status as director of the ISO's core musical mission, starting with the 2024-25 season. Speaking by phone late Tuesday afternoon after having got to work immediately, Märkl had just come from auditions at Hilbert Circle Theatre, the orchestra's home. For several years, the list of ISO musicians in every program book has included "Acting" in front of several principal and associate or assistant principal positions. "When you do not have a music director, many positions are on hold," the new music director explained, including section positions. "We schedule

Veteran guest conductor and recent artistic advisor Jun Märkl is ISO's new music director

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After an unprecedented break between music directors, the eighth man to hold the leading artistic position Jun Märkl cements his ISO association with a five-year contract. with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra was announced Tuesday morning at the orchestra's home, Hilbert Circle Theatre . Jun Märkl , a Japanese-German musician whose guest ISO appearances on the Hilbert Circle Theatre podium go back into the 1990s, takes the logical step upward from several years as "artistic advisor" following the pandemic-shortened tenure of Krzysztof Urbanski (2011-2021). As music director designate, Märkl will conduct the orchestra next weekend in two concerts of music by Richard Strauss . His five-year contract, to take effect at the start of the 2024-25 season, calls for him to  conduct nine weeks of concerts in Indianapolis each season, starting with six weeks the first season, in addition to other duties. Currently, he serves as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra

Under the weather, APA prizewinner Broberg shows elan in solo recital

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His announced program shortened by a bout with flu, Kenny Broberg still left a sterling impression on a Kenny Broberg found a place for a favorite, Nikolai Medtner. near-capacity audience at the Indiana History Center Sunday afternoon, presented by the American Pianists Association. The 2021 winner of the Indianapolis-based American Pianist Awards Classical Fellowship, Broberg now anchors his professional activity with a teaching position at a conservatory in Madrid.  Transatlantic air travel from Spain may have triggered the pianist's having caught the bug, moving him to discard Sunday's intermission and lop off two of the three movements of Robert Schumann's Fantasy in C major, op. 17. It seemed a prudent choice. The Schumann Fantasy is a complex piece; in simplistic terms, you could label the second movement  technically challenging and the third movement spiritually so. The finale has two of those "goosebump city" moments for me – great buildups of tension

Breadth of chamber-orchestra genre reflected in ICO's 'Silenced Voices'

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In 1936, about two years before the ghastly portent of Kristallnacht, a Nazi gang pulled down a statue of 2022 IVCI silver medalist solos in Mendelssohn. Felix Mendelssohn in Leipzig. So, even though he lived and died long  before Germany's accelerating descent into anti-semitic madness, the North German composer from a distinguished Jewish family counts as one of the "Silenced Voices" saluted in the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra 's concert Saturday night at Schrott Center. Taken as a significant harbinger of the Holocaust, widespread vandalism that flared up when Jewish shops and synagogues were torched and smashed left shards of glass on pavements, inspiring the designation of "crystal night." Destroying the Mendelssohn monument had given notice that even assimilated Jews of great contributions to German culture would be destined for elimination if they didn't manage to escape. Two other Jewish composers of historic importances in "Silenced Vo

ISO's Bologne and Mozart: Sparkle of programming leaves open questions of merit

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Early-music specialist Jeannette Sorrell guest-conducts ISO.   "I am the darker brother," Langston Hughes advised and warned his white (and unwilling to acknowledge) fellow Americans. Classical music has recently moved to extend such acknowledgment to its darker brothers and sisters, and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra follows the trend this weekend in putting Joseph Bologne (1745-1799), a biracial, multitalented aristocrat often known better via his French knighthood as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, shoulder-to-shoulder with a younger contemporary, Wolfgang Mozart.  Hughes' poem, "I, Too," quickly brings in the compelled inferiority of his race through the imagery of having to "eat in the kitchen when company comes." Sometimes not feasting at the main table is posthumous as well: Hughes' poem implies that and the historical record can bear it out. The question remains as to how worthiness to take a better seat can be fairly judged, given the