REVIEW: A remarkable concert (Festival Orchestra, Abbado)

HeraldTimesOnline.com
MUSIC REVIEW: FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA TWO
A remarkable concert
By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | pjacobi@heraldt.com
July 2, 2012

Put about 90 quality student musicians on stage. Add 13 Jacobs School faculty members to serve as principals, including Jorja Fleezanis in the concertmaster’s chair, she — prior to coming to IU — having served in that important position with the Minnesota Orchestra. Add four visiting artists to the mix, they currently serving as principals or associate principals for the symphony orchestras of St. Louis, Minnesota, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

And that’s who Roberto Abbado had to collaborate with in preparing for and presenting the second of this summer’s Festival orchestra concerts in the Musical Arts Center last Friday evening. Given that Maestro Abbado is a major, world-class podium talent, one should have expected a fine program.

Well, fine it was, to say the least. This was a remarkable concert, with the orchestra doing itself, the conductor, and two highly demanding pieces of music proud. The maestro had chosen two works that celebrate the orchestra, at least one capable of handling their complexities: Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. Friday’s performances were celebrations.

Though, of course, the Bartok features numerous solo moments for the different instrumental choirs within a symphony orchestra, as a concerto, it was meant to treat the full aggregate as a solo instrument. Abbado did not lose sight of that. He managed deftly to introduce rich individual colors into what throughout and ultimately must emerge as an intricate and showy orchestral weave. The performance was boldly energetic and rhythmically propulsive. It was also lushly soaked in moods, from the mysterious to the elegiac, from the humorous to the dramatic. The results were stunning.

The Concerto for Orchestra was one of Bartok’s last compositions. The Symphonic Dances were Rachmaninoff’s last and, like Bartok’s, a virtuoso score demanding virtuoso playing. The orchestration is spectacular; the developed dances are invitingly catchy. Again, the challenges are significant, not only because of the technical requirements but because the musical temperaments to be expressed vary widely, from the festive to the introspective and back again. Abbado and his supportive players gave the Dances wing. Again, the performance was outstanding, at once cohesive and thrillingly zestful.

Thus: two Festival Orchestra concerts, two notable conductors in Matthias Pintscher and Roberto Abbado, two triumphs, a fortunate outcome so far.

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