Review: ICO features young cellist

Joshua Roman

By Tom Aldridge

4.5 stars

Indiana History Center; April 16.

Last Saturday music director Kirk Trevor led his Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra in his second Masterworks program after his ensemble had earlier-this-season explored three crossover concerts. Evidently Saturday’s repertoire showed strong drawing power as the IHC’s Basile Theater was filled to the brim — all but sold out.

Plus the ICO’s featured cellist Joshua Roman might have helped. Putting it succinctly, the 27-year-old cellist proved a strong attraction in the opening Haydn Cello Concerto in C and created a sensation in the following Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 33, by Tchaikovsky.

Considered a “classical rock star,” Roman’s repertoire seemingly knows no boundaries, his delving as deeply into jazz and rock as in chamber music. Moreover he exudes a soft but beautifully controlled tone as well as a complete mastery of the notes. With only a 32-player ensemble, his dynamic level fit perfectly.

The Haydn concerto is an early work (1765), lost until its rediscovery some 50 years ago — prior to which the composer had been known in the genre only for his more-famous, later-written D Major Cello Concerto. Since then, the C Major work has been often performed as the available repertoire for cello concertos is somewhat meager. Though not a great work, this early Haydn is a well constructed example of the earlier Classical style: three movements, an expressive Adagio and a virtuosic Finale. Our soloist and players got out of it everything that was there with excellent balance and precision. Roman received a standing ovation.

The Tchaikovsky Variations (1877) is the composer’s only work for cello and orchestra — a modest sized ensemble for that period, adding two flutes, two clarinets and two bassoons to the two oboes, two horns and strings that Haydn employed. Aside from making a bigger display for the cello than Haydn had done, Tchaikovsky employed his usual wistful wind harmonies and filigrees which varied in pace and motion through each of the seven variations.

Roman weaved his way through the thick of the entire ensemble, always audible, always adding to the work’s synergy. This time he got a thundering, standing ovation — enough to bring about a solo encore, “Julie-O” by San Francisco cellist Mark Summer, demonstrating Roman’s crossover abilities.

Trevor ended his program with Schubert’s less-often-performed Symphony No. 6 in C (“The Little”), D. 589, to which was added two trumpets and timpani to the Tchaikovsky forces. Though a complex work with a lot going on, its light-veined mood doesn’t compete with its orchestration—its final movement suggesting a divertissement or music accompanying a soirée.

The work is almost dominated by the two flutes, with principal flutist Anne Reynolds and her colleague Susanne Farley doing real yeoman’s work throughout the four movements. A fine, well-meshed performance, but not great Schubert.