The Symphony of the Americas opening concert of the 2018-2019 season on Tuesday night at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater was cause for celebration indeed.
The event marked the ensemble's thirtieth anniversary and the commencement of its fourth decade. Prior to the program, the Broward Center's President and CEO Kelley Shanley hailed the orchestra's important contribution to classical programming, arts education and community outreach that has extended far beyond its home base in Fort Lauderdale. Shanley noted that Maestro James Brooks-Bruzzese and the orchestra inaugurated the Amaturo Theater, giving the first concert in the hall. The ensemble remains the intimate auditorium's mainstay and the season opener proved a capital artistic event.
Following a rousing rendition of The National Anthem, Brooks-Bruzzese led a sparking performance of the Overture to Donizetti's comic opera Don Pasquale. The melody of the tenor aria Come gentil was phrased with élan by principal cellist Iris Van Eck.
Just in time for Halloween, Brooks-Bruzzese captured the Latin color and exotic incantation of Manuel De Falla's Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo. The growling brass and alert and precise strings conjured up the spooky evocation of a sorcerer to banish evil spirits. Orgia - Danza Fantástica No. 3 by Joaquín Turina evoked multiple hues of instrumental sonority. The rich tone of Van Eck's cello and Marco Key-Navarrete's evocative solo oboe were first among equals in an exciting ensemble traversal of this Andalusian gem.
Ciro Fodere has been one of South Florida's stalwart keyboard soloists, chamber music and ensemble players. Fodere assayed contemporary Uruguayan composer Florencia Di Concilio's Piano Concerto No. 2, a brilliant virtuoso display piece. Fodere had given the premiere of the score in 2017 and he has performed it in North and South America on multiple occasions. Di Concilio, who has studied at the College of Charleston, New England Conservatory and Paris Conservatoire, has written scores for numerous French and Spanish language films. Her concerto displays an exceptional melodic gift. The initial Moderato movement is dominated by haunting thematic material in the manner of Rachmaninoff. Fodere brought sweeping sonority and keyboard spanning aplomb to this appealing work. Brooks-Bruzzese and the orchestra were full partners with particularly distinguished contributions from the lustrous strings and winds. Concertmaster Bogdan Chruszcz's solo was spun with elegance and Fodere superbly conveyed the bravura pyrotechnics of the cadenza. He brought verve and rhythmic exactitude to the pianistic fireworks of the concluding Allegro. The orchestra unleashed a flood of timbral power in the finale, illustrating Di Concilio's splendidly gauged orchestration. This score is a sure fire crowd pleaser and Fodere and Brooks-Bruzzese received enthusiastic bravos from the audience.
While the comic operas of Gioachino Rossini are well known, his more dramatic works have largely languished in obscurity. Recent revivals have proven many of these scores worthy and viable. Long before Verdi penned his operatic masterpiece, Rossini created an operatic version of Otello in 1816, based on the Shakespeare play. Brooks-Bruzzese opened the concert's second half with the classically framed overture to that score. Despite the opera's subject manner, the overture abounds in typically sparkling themes. Brooks-Bruzzese is a Rossinian to the manor borne and he captured the bright energetic thrust of the music with total stylishness, abetted by the musicians' incisive articulation.
Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos is one of the genius from Salzburg's most delightful works and Fodere and Uruguayan pianist and pedagogue Enrique Graf concluded the concert with a first rate performance that took the full measure of the score's inspired melodies and pianistic virtuosity. Graf's light, fleet touch and Fodere's more overtly dynamic approach melded perfectly from the duo's first unison entrance. The secondary subject of the opening Allegro was stated with delicacy and finesse by Graf, Brooks-Bruzzese integrating the instrumental lines in true concertante fashion. Finely variegated dynamics and vivacity marked Graf and Fodere's spot on rendering of the cadenza.
The concerto's Andante found the pianists' purity of line and sheer expressive musicality aptly suggesting the almost operatic quality of Mozart's thematic invention. In this concerto, Mozart left the best for last. The concluding Rondo is one of his most vivacious creations. Graf and Fodere vividly brought forth both the movement's boldly assertive heft and silken melodic richness. Transitions between episodic sections were smoothly achieved and the modulation to the sudden stormy passages had appropriate weight without loss of aristocratic grace. The players brought out the score's authentic charm with Brooks-Bruzzese lending lively, precise support in a great display of perfect teamwork. A lengthy, well deserved cheering ovation ended the evening on a festive note.
The Symphony of the Americas presents Holiday Music and Movies December 4 at 7"45 p.m. and December 9 at 2 p.m. at the Broward Center Amaturo Theater. 954-335-7002 www.sota.org
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