MUSIC REVIEW: IU CONCERT ORCHESTRA, EFFRON, IOANNIDES

Soloist, orchestra and conductor make a complete package

By Peter Jacobi

An orchestra playing tremendously well, a fascinating Japanese work and a Beethoven piano concerto given an elegant and introspective performance: these were benefits for listeners attending Wednesday evening’s Indiana University Concert Orchestra program in the Musical Arts Center

Conductor David Effron once again had made sure that an orchestral ensemble working with him would play with distinction. The repertoire: “Fruits de brume” by the Japanese composer Akira Miyoshi, Robert Schumann’s Symphony Number 4, and — with Andreas Ioannides as soloist — Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number 2.

The Japanese piece alone undoubtedly required more than the average amount of rehearsal. Presented as part of the Jacobs School of Music’s Fall Festival of Contemporary Japanese Music, this impressively orchestrated item called for all sorts of percussion: cymbals, tam-tam, cowbell, vibraphone, gong, bells, marimba, glockenspiel, xylophone and more. What one heard was, at first, near-silence, evanescent, misty, as the title word “brume” or “mist” promises. But the orchestral canvas broadens and deepens from those early whispers into the geniality of bells and the ping-pangs of mallet instruments, then progressively into not-so-genial cataclysmic uproar, and, finally, a return to quiet and calm.

The performance sounded assured and left a mark. Not mentioned in the printed program or by announcement was word that composer Miyoshi died just a month ago in Tokyo at age 80. Maestro Effron and the orchestra, however, certainly honored the composer with their high quality reading of “Fruits de brume.”

Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, his last, gains along its sometimes lively, sometimes dreamy, always expressive path a Brahmsian quality, this for its intensity and compressed orchestration. One heard that relationship on Wednesday. The symphony also features themes to which Schumann returns, the repetitions serving to unite the movements and make of them a seamless work. To further that effect, the movements often are performed without pauses between them.

That was not the case on this occasion. Nevertheless, Effron and company managed to give the piece its needed flow, along with a growth in exuberance and abundant vitality.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number 2, believed to be his first save for its publication date, shows what the composer could accomplish in the early days of his orchestral maturity. A delightful work it is, and delight was at all times evident as soloist Ioannides joined a significantly-reduced-in-size Concert Orchestra for a performance both intimate and refreshingly warm.

During much of the score, the pianist is exposed, unable to hide under the cover of orchestral support; a mistake, just a wrong note, would threaten the fragile fabric of the musical line. That did not happen. The Cyprus-born pianist, now a doctoral student of Menahem Pressler, was technically in firm control from the first uncovered notes forward. And along with technical command, he brought grace and spring and delicacy and refinement and joy to his performance. The melodies rang and sang. The intricacies, during cadenzas and elsewhere, were handled with polish. In total, Ioannides offered the complete package. For that to happen, of course, a complementary orchestra and collaborating conductor were necessary. Fortunately, he had them.

© Herald Times 2013

 

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