South Florida Symphony makes impressive debut at Broward Center
A fine orchestra made its Fort Lauderdale debut Thursday, signaling the arrival of a significant new ensemble on the South Florida music scene.
The South Florida Symphony has changed its name from the Key West Symphony, moved its headquarters to Fort Lauderdale and lined up an impressive group of soloists for a four-county concert series that will stretch through May. The orchestra performed its first season concert Wednesday in Key West, and on Thursday brought the program to Fort Lauderdale, with a repeat performance scheduled for Saturday in Miami Beach.
Many orchestras can’t afford to put enough string players on stage, ending up with a thin sound dominated by brass and winds. But the 69-member South Florida Symphony fielded 44 violins, violas, cellos and basses, achieving a tone that was rich, symphonic and well balanced. Although there was occasional scrappiness in the violins and the tone of the wind section could be richer, playing was generally tight, in tune and accurate.
Conductor Sebrina Maria Alfonso is a commanding stage presence with an energetic style, and she deployed her forces with finesse. In the Brahms Academic Festival Overture, which opened the program, she drew out all of Brahms’ contrapuntal inner voices, allowing the complexity of the work to come out, rather than turning it into a blaring, brassy set of student drinking songs.
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was the evening’s centerpiece with Chee-Yun as soloist.
The South Korea-born, Juilliard-educated violinist gave an aggressive and fearless interpretation, with a shining tone and absolutely secure bow arm that allowed not a trace of roughness to disturb the performance. She made the most of Beethoven’s improvisatory figures at the opening, bringing them to a level of intensity rarely heard in performances of this work. Her phrasing and impassioned playing were at their finest when the orchestra takes up the first theme in minor to the accompaniment in triplets in the violin or the long minor-key section over solemn repeated notes in the trumpet.
But her vibrato was too uniformly intense, sacrificing the gentleness and quiet nobility of some passages, such as the violin melody after the cadenza and several sections of the second movement. The dance-like last movement came off with vigor. Although the rapid notes of Fritz Kreisler’s cadenza got away from her a bit, she and the orchestra joined for an exciting close, as she tore through the rapid arpeggios toward the end.
As an encore, she played Kreisler’s rarely heard Recitative and Scherzo, a showpiece of chords, rapid bouncing-bow passages and runs that she tossed off with virtuoso flair. Chee-Yun is the first of several high-quality soloists who will be heard with the orchestra this season, to be followed by violinist Lara St. John and the pianist Barry Douglas.
The second half was devoted to Elgar’s Enigma Variations, one of those works that reveals the full range of an orchestra’s palette, at times soft and mysterious, at other times triumphant, with intricate passagework, complex textures and anthem-like melodies.
The Nimrod variation was velvety and well paced, rising through a skillfully built crescendo to a climax that was majestic without being overbearing. The final variation was satisfyingly big and brassy. But the most impressive sections were the light and graceful ones, such as the Dorabella variation or the transparent, gossamer opening of the first variation, in which winds take the melody over a shimmering accompaniment in the strings.
The Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater was only about half full, but attendance should improve as word spreads about the high quality of this new and important addition to the region’s music scene.
The program will be repeated 8 p.m. Saturday at the Lincoln Theatre in Miami Beach. Call 305-673-3331 or go to southfloridasymphony.org.
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Fri Oct 8, 2010
at 10:44 am