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Miami Symphony celebrates 30 years with an orchestral spectacular

Mon Oct 15, 2018 at 2:09 pm

By Lawrence Budmen

Eduardo Marturet conducted the Miami Symphony Orchestra's season-opening concert Sunday night at the Arsht Center.

Eduardo Marturet conducted the Miami Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert Sunday night at the Arsht Center.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra’s season-opening concert Sunday night at the Arsht Center celebrated the ensemble’s 30th anniversary. An impressive new score by a recent University of Miami graduate, an idiomatic performance of an American classic and a capable rendition of a orchestral showpiece, in addition to the inevitable playing of “Happy Birthday,” formed the musical fare.

Music director Eduardo Marturet was in top form for the celebratory event, leading the orchestra with impressive energy and control. The substantial program opened with the world premiere of Orbits by Robert Tindle, a MISO commission.

Tindle studied composition at the UM Frost School of Music with Dorothy Hindman, Charles Mason and Lansing McLosky. His spirited ten-minute work for large orchestral forces opens with the bright, ringing sounds of brass and chimes, backed by a full percussion battery. Vigorous rhythms are interrupted by a quasi-impressionistic interlude. The full-throttle final pages are reminiscent of Shostakovich’s climactic volleys. Tindle has crafted an immensely appealing crowd-pleaser that displays  a real flair for instrumental writing. Brilliant brass stood out in a rousing performance. Tindle was awarded a standing ovation.

Mary Anne Huntsman

Mary Anne Huntsman

George Gershwin’s Concerto in F requires tremendous digital dexterity and an affinity for Gershwin’s fusion of classical and popular idioms. In a whirlwind reading, Mary Anne Huntsman succeeded on both counts. A well-traveled pianist who has concertized widely in Europe and Asia, Huntsman is the daughter of former Utah governor and veteran American diplomat John Huntsman. Her initial blues-inflected strains set the appropriate mood. Huntsman took a less percussive approach to the score but could still spin jazzy syncopations at rapid speed.

The muted trumpet solo that opens the second movement was rendered with aplomb and a perfect sense of Gershwin’s personal brand of night music. Huntsman brought extra zest to the quirky melodic patterns but turned expansive with rhapsodic phrasing and full tone in Gershwin’s big, sweeping theme.

Marturet commenced the final Allegro agitato without pause. Huntsman’s exciting, unrelenting tempo and Marturet’s fleet support fully encompassed Gershwin’s synthesis of the jazz age and Broadway. For once the reprise of themes from earlier movements seemed totally natural and coherent. Huntsman’s final cascading chords capped a nearly flawless reading.

Holst’s The Planets is a symphonic spectacular. While the orchestra’s performance was less than perfect technically on Sunday, Marturet and the players managed the big picture well indeed.

The opening dark lower string tread and ominous brass motifs of “Mars: The Bringer of War” had cinematic force. The solo horn faltered initially faltered at the outset of “Venus: The Bringer of Peace” but Marturet quickly set things right and the silky string sonority captured the music’s tranquility. Evocative oboe and violin solos (by concertmaster Daniel Andai) and fine detailing of the two harps showcased Marturet’s excellent balancing of instrumental choirs.

“Mercury: The Winged Messenger” was propulsive and light on its feet. There were some early brass burbles in the famous “Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity” movement. Here Marturet took some unconventional tempos. The opening and closing sections were faster than in most performances while he chose a broad, spacious approach to the central hymn. Well articulated by the strings and first-chair winds, the performance was undeniably exciting despite the interpretive eccentricities.

The austere opening pages of “Saturn: The Bringer of Old Age” were built up in gradual layers of dynamics, the chimes standing out. Firm brass intoned the first bars of  “Uranus: The Magician,” played  in the manner of a scherzo. Rhythms skipped along in dance-like fashion and Marturet made the most of the big English tune with the percussion going at full force.

The mystery of the concluding “Neptune: The Mystic” strongly conveyed Holst’s strange brew of wind sonority and intergalactic echoes. The women’s voices of the Encantus Voices & Ensemble 
(located in an upper balcony box) were properly eerie and other worldly, under the direction of Maibel Trola. Holst’s sonic extravaganza was an appropriate conclusion to an admirable evening of music from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Eduardo Marturet conducts the Miami Symphony Orchestra in “Ocean Drive in Vienna” 6 p.m. January 20 at the Arsht Center in Miami.

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