South Florida Classical Review » » Miami Symphony Orchestra Proves Difficult and Not Always Ready in Overambitious Season Opener
The Miami Symphony Orchestra was recently proclaimed Miami’s official symphony orchestra by Mayor Francis Suarez and the Miami City Commission.
Despite that honour, Sunday night at the Arsht Center the ensemble went wildly uneven in a season-opening concert that included two world premieres, a Mahler trinket and a staple of Brahms repertoire. The conductor Eduardo Marturet certainly does not lack ambition.
Blumine is a slow movement that Mahler deleted from his Symphony No. 1. Since its rediscovery in the 1960s, it has occasionally been performed as a stand-alone piece (and some conductors have even reinserted it into the symphony).
At its end, Blumine is a beautiful work. A trumpet spearheads a seductive melody, buffered by darker mood settings in the strings. Marturet showed a fine affinity for the shades of dark and light in the score. The solo trumpet created an appropriately lyrical aura and the low strings produced a full-bodied corporate tone.
Rodner Padilla’s Concerto for Electric Bass and Orchestra, commissioned by MISO, was an illustration of the pitfalls of combining pop artists and their distinctive musical idiom with a symphonic ensemble. After a slow, ominous introduction that held promise, the brief work degenerated into a modernist pop film soundtrack. From the enthusiastic response of the public, Padilla is a popular local favorite. He obviously masters his instrument and plays flashy solo riffs with relish. Yet, like most talented pop and rock artists, he would be best heard without the trappings of a classic ensemble pasted as his showcase.
Karen LeFrak’s Piano Concerto (“Summer”), also a commissioned world premiere, lived up to its subtitle in diverting the brilliance of the spirit. The disarming simplicity of this ten-minute opus hides a plethora of inspired thematic ideas. LeFrak demonstrates a true sense of instrumental coloring, writing as lucidly for the orchestra as for the keyboard. Korean-born Yoonie Han navigated the solo lines gracefully and with meticulous attention to detail. Marturet and the players matched it brilliantly.
The middle movements fared better in a less coherent reading of Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor. An intimate scale Andante moderato was given nuanced and varied contrasts of dynamics that would have been welcome elsewhere in another blatant performance. Under concertmaster Daniel Andai, the sound of the strings emerged full-bodied. A robust Allegro giocoso crackling with the emery and flavor of a Brahms Hungarian dance. Brilliant and precise in its balance of timbre, the movement produced the most impressive full set of the evening.
If only the outer movements had got away with it too. During the first movement, there were persistent gaps in the winds and brass. The balances sometimes went awry, the horns drowned out the other instrumental choirs and the sharp accents could get dull. Marturet led the final passacaglia at a sluggish pace. A beautifully calibrated flute solo could not mask much of the rough and irregular playing of the orchestra.
Eduardo Marturet will then conduct the Miami Symphony Orchestra at 6 p.m. on February 12, 2023 at the Arsht Center in Miami. The program includes Marturet’s Magnetic pulses for singing bowls and orchestra, Stravinsky Petrushka, Concerto for guitar by Karen LeFrak and Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso with violinist Daniel Andai. themiso.org
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