By Peter Jacobi
The Indiana University Concert Orchestra in reduced numbers made a favorable impression as the pit ensemble for IU Opera Theater’s recent production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” but not until Saturday evening did it get a season send-off in full size. Its seasonal debut in the Musical Arts Center was a notable one, undoubtedly aided by the gentleman on the podium.
Paul Nadler, possessor of a vita laden with significant orchestral and operatic experience, was the visiting baton wielder in charge, and he’d obviously done his job. The orchestra played with technical assurance and insight in readings of Schumann’s Overture to Manfred,” Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, and Debussy’s “La Mer,” a challenging program, to be sure.
Schumann was much taken by Lord Byron’s dramatic poem about Manfred, a man insensitive to the plight of others who lives in solitude high up in the Alps. He wrote a whole score: overture and 15 other pieces for orchestra, chorus, and soloists. The overture has been taken off the shelf far more often than the rest and was again for this concert. It calls for tension of mood and whipped up climaxes. With Maestro Nadler in command, the Concert Orchestra matched tension with taut playing and reveled in the climaxes.
Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, one of his strongest creations, reflects the composer’s intense feelings about current events during World War II years. It contains angry music and sardonic and, near the end, a hint of hope. The orchestration is suggestive and bold. Nadler’s interpretation and the orchestra’s realization gave the performance an accumulating and propulsive power, just as Stravinsky undoubtedly must have hoped for.
Between the Romanticism of Schumann and the modernism of Stravinsky, Nadler placed the Impressionism of Debussy, specifically the famous three symphonic sketches that comprise “La Mer.” The composer spoke of “my old friend . endless and beautiful. The sea that is stirred up wants to dash across the land, tear out the rocks, and has tantrums like a little girl.” The dashing and tearing and the ferocious were very much in evidence in Saturday’s neatly crafted and commendable performance.
© Herald Times 2013