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Miami Symphony season leads off with strong Brahms, world premiere

Mon Oct 05, 2015 at 12:14 pm

By Lawrence Budmen

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

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

The Miami Symphony Orchestra opened its season Sunday night at the Arsht Center with strong performances of two symphonic classics and the premiere of an attractive new score by one of the ensemble’s six composers-in-residence. Marking the tenth anniversary of conductor Eduardo Marturet’s association with the orchestra, the concert was a vivid display of Marturet’s skillfed work as an orchestra builder. The entire ensemble was in strong form, all sections playing with clarity and focus.

Marturet set a deliberate pace at the onset of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (the Unfinished) but, gradually, the opening movement gained power and momentum. The five unison double basses brought emphatic impact to the mysterious opening subject and the cellos’ light, resonant tone and supple phrasing beautifully conveyed the romance of the movement’s second theme. Marturet took an expansive approach to the Andante but maintained a firm line with fine detailing of dynamic contrasts. The violin section’s sweetness and warmth of tone were particularly notable.

Marturet dedicated the premiere of Echoes by Tulio Cremisini to the orchestra’s players, telling them to play their hearts out and indeed they gave their all to this appealing new work. Cremisini is the orchestra’s acting principal timpanist. A Latin Grammy Winner, composer of film and television scores and former member of Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, Cremisini has a real flair for colorful and idiomatic instrumental writing. The score suggests a Mediterranean Rachmaninoff with brooding, richly melodic writing that displayed the ensemble’s lush strings and finely pointed winds. A cross between a pops piece and full blown symphonic tone poem, Echoes deserves repeated performances.

Marturet has programmed Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 several times in the past. While previous performances were variable in quality and articulation, Sunday’s rendering was beautifully played and maintained a high level of intensity from the opening bars to the final  chords of the concluding passacaglia.  Marturet’s taut tempo in the first movement always kept a sure sense of musical line, the melodies flowing with a natural sense of inevitability. The undertow of lower strings was always present and climaxes were given fiery impetus.

The opening horn calls of the Andante moderato emerged rounded and clear. Marturet shaped the wind theme unhurriedly and gave the strings space for the song-like contrasting melody while highlighting the moments of drama with full force. He brought propulsive lift to the scherzo, the key triangle part audible and present through the orchestral texture.

The passacaglia finale has confounded more than a few conductors but Marturet superbly controlled variations of speed and dynamics. Dark undercurrents ebbed and flowed beneath the initial subject and variations and the coda was given almost torrential force. The outstanding solo work by the first-chair wind players dominated a well-played reading of  Brahms’ monumental final symphony in one of Marturet and the orchestra’s most successful collaborations.

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