The renowned French-American artist Duaív joined the Symphony of the Americas on Tuesday night at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater for a vivid demonstration of how music and art relate and inspire creativity. Appropriately the Florida based Duaív painted several canvases on stage to the music of the Impressionist master Claude Debussy. There was more rare Debussy as well from the terrific clarinetist Dimitri Ashkenazy, son of famed pianist-conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy. Maestro James Brooks-Bruzzese presided over an evening of vivacious, multi-hued performances.
Duaív is also a cellist, having studied at the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris, and he opened the evening with a lovely performance of Ariel Ramos' Variations on a Theme of Alexander Borodin (for cello and strings). Based on the third movement of Borodin's String Quartet No. 2, also known independently as Nocturne for Strings, Ramos' arrangement spotlights the solo cello in the romantic principal theme. (The Florida based team of composer-lyricists Robert Wright and George Forest turned that melody into the song And This is My Beloved in their 1953 Broadway musical Kismet.) Duaív played the more ornate variants with precision and fine tone and the orchestra's strings came through with clarity.
With his paint, brushes and canvass in place at stage left, Duaív made three paintings (his brush strokes projected on a screen behind the orchestra) as Brooks-Bruzzese and the ensemble played three movements from Debussy's Petite Suite. A more perfect melding of music and art can scarcely be imagined. Duaív's bold strokes, richly textured bursts of color and exuberant patterns exquisitely match Debussy's tints and splashes of melody and gleaming instrumental writing. The light heated repartee between Duaív and the conductor at the beginning of each section greatly entertained the audience.
Debussy's music remains enchanting. Flute over strings and harp set the languorous thematic figuration of En bateau (Sailing) in motion, establishing the perfect arty ambience. Cortège was animated and invigorating, the string section's precision on display. The final Ballet - Allegro Giusto radiated joy to match the richness of the artist's palette. With the orchestra in high gear, Brooks-Bruzzese set a lively pace that turned more expansive in the central episode. Duaív also painted to the Czech dance infused section of Smetana's Bohemia Woods and Fields (part of the symphonic cycle Ma Vlast). He even managed to paint and substantially complete his canvass at the conductor's brisk tempo. (The paintings were later auctioned off as a benefit for the Symphony of the Americas, an act of wonderful generosity by Duaív.)
The program's second half brought some works that have been recorded numerous times but seldom played in concert. British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams' The Wasps Overture was composed for a production of Aristophanes' play at Cambridge University in 1909. This is high stepping, quintessentially English music and Brooks-Bruzzese brought a plethora of forward thrust to its martial strains. Horns and winds were in top form and the strings produced luminous tonal sonority. The sweetness of Bogdan Chruszcz's violin solo matched the spacious, almost cinematic aura of the score's middle section.
Dimitri Ashkenazy has soloed with many of the world's major orchestras and played chamber music with numerous quartets, solo instrumentalists and intimate ensemble as well as his father and his brother - pianist Vovka Ashkenazy. A total master of his instrument, he made the clarinet genuinely sing in the sustained lyrical lines of Debussy's Premiere Rhapsodie. Ashkenazy spun the work's atmospheric glints of instrumental patterns with mellow beauty of tone and exhibited winning agility in the leaps between registers. Brooks-Bruzzese offered a model of fine collaboration, supporting Ashkenazy while keeping the individual orchestral lines transparent (including the clear tinkle of the solo triangle).
Darius Milhaud was a member of Les Six - a group of French composers who attempted to fuse elements of the music hall and popular culture into their classical creations. Milhaud's suite Scaramouche is best known in the original two piano version. In 1939 the composer arranged the three movement work for clarinet and orchestra. No less than a virtuoso than Benny Goodman gave that edition its premiere in 1945. Ashkenazy revealed in the whirling figures of the opening Vif, his slides between notes suggesting a touch of the blues. In the second movement Moderé, fragmentary themes turn into a flowing motif, played by Ashkenazy with haunting finesse, channeling Gallic nostalgia. His brilliant instrumental command took wing in the concluding Brasileira with Ashkenazy matching the jazzy Latin rhythms at full tilt. Brooks-Bruzzese astutely brought out the modernist spice of Milhaud's orchestration.
The concert concluded with the Polonaise from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, rendered by Brooks-Bruzzese and the players with Imperial Russian passion and nobility - a joyous conclusion to a varied and entrancing concert.
The Symphony of the Americas season continues with pianist-composer Thomas Pandolfi as soloist in in his James Bond and Frank Sinatra Piano Concertos 3 p.m. March 3 at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater. www.symphonyoftheamericas.org 954-335-7002
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