Review: Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's unofficial season opener

October 18, 2012
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After weeks of contract negotiations and a lockout, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra unofficially opened its 2012-13 season Thursday with hot chocolate and White Castle hamburgers in the lobby, a Happy Hour crowd that gave the players an extended standing ovation before a single note was played, and a program that didn’t just range from M83 to Beethoven but neatly combined both into the musical highlight of the evening.

OK, the samples from Pizzology were also pretty good.

A semi-bearded Zach De Pue and his Time for Three cohorts were the focus of most of the program, mixing in a Coldplay variation, a “Riverdance” tune, Led Zeppelin’s “Gallows Pole" (also mashed with Beethoven) and original musical by their occasional (but not tonight) keyboardist. The playing by the trio-in-residence was aggressive and spirited if not always mixing well with the rest of the ISO. The fact that the program was pulled together with three days mitigated any rough spots.

For a closer, Time for Three wisely turned the stage back over to the rank-and-file ISO for a conductorless “Bolero.” Ravel's hypnotic piece incessantly repeats its melody, layering it each time with different instruments until it seems like there couldn't possibly be another sound coming from the orchestra. That's when it all comes together with the entire orchestra engaged in the crazy sway whose impact is akin to being in the midst of a holographic Fellini film while buzzed.

And then its over...at least, the live part is. Ravel's melody, though, is likely to stick with you for days. You can hear it for yourself at the Oct. 19-20 concerts where it's paired with Debussy's "La Mer."  

Although they didn’t take the stage, both music director Krzystof Urbanski and principal pops conductor Jack Everly were in the house to witness the love-fest between the crowd and the musicians. Absence certainly seems to have made the Indianapolis hearts grow fonder.

Your thoughts?

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  • Symphony with Light Show
    I completely enjoyed myself at Happy Hour at the Symphony on Thursday night. As Lou Harry alludes to above, you didn't even have to drink any alcohol to feel a buzz. What I especially liked is that in addition to entertaining my sense of taste, with the food (no, I wasn't eating instruments), and my sense of hearing, with the nicely nuanced mixtures of modern and classical tunes, my sense of sight got a treat as well. I thought the use of the stage lights throughout the evening really added that extra effect that kept me engaged with the performers throughout the show. The layering of lights as the instrumentation layered on top of itself during the ISOs playing of Bolero was especially effective. It was also fun to watch the tf3 cohorts grinning, shoulder shrugging, and moving their heads just as much as their bows while standing in front of the biggest, and might I say best, back-up band around.
  • Bittersweet
    Truly bittersweet. It was so great having our symphony back on stage (though I went to both fundraising concerts that the ISO musicians produced during the lockout) but I couldn't help thinking while sitting there all night about how skrewed over they were and how much they had to concede to take the stage simply because they, their endowment fund, their marketing and their fundraising have been so, so horribly mismanaged. It's like the kids being punished because their parents are such...well, bad stewards of the family. So it was bittersweet. Our musicians deserve more than this. I can tell you too, if board chair John Thornburgh or interim CEO Jackie Groth had dared to take the stage with our musicians, I was prepared to boo. And heckle loudly. I hope in the aftermath, there is a board and management shakeup and the musicians, in the end, get their due. If not, we're going to lose a lot of them to orchestras - and cities - that are more worthy of their dedication and talents.

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