Pianist Prats and Singing Sons best in mixed SOA concert

By Alan Becker

It’s always a pleasure to hear Cuban-born pianist Jorge Luis Prats. Not only is his technique the equal of any pianist around today, but his musicianship commands attention in whatever repertory he chooses to play. Such was the case Tuesday at the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theatre when the Symphony of the Americas featured Prats in a scintillating traversal of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

One might lament that this concerto is of relatively short duration. Certainly the longer, if lesser-known, second concerto would have given us more of Prats, but few could complain when the results were this satisfying. Once past the opening measures, the piano is sent scurrying forth on an almost unstoppable adventure of rhythm and wacky humor. The notes come fast and furious, and Prats’ steely fingers and pinpoint accuracy were an awesome thing to behold. He takes many chances, but Prats’ spontaneity and living on the precipice kept the audience on the edge of their seats.  A standing ovation drew many encores, the pianist throwing kisses to his audience.

Conductor James Brooks-Bruzzese can take pride in his ensemble’s positive development over the years. Still, some of the playing reminds us that polished technical proficiency is a goal yet to be reached by this orchestra. The clarinetist had a nightmare at the start of the concerto as his instrument refused to speak the important opening theme. And additional casualties occurred during Copland’s Outdoor Overture as a trombonist jumped the gun on his initial entry. The principal trumpet player also had his disaster during the big solo. Somehow, the ever fresh piece, written in 1941 for New York’s High School of Music and Art, still managed to come across with all the jubilation and melodic invention the composer poured into it.

Arranger Hans Spialek’s selections from Porgy and Bess made little attempt to link the melodies into a cohesive structure, as Robert Russell Bennett or Gershwin himself had done. It was a slick, patchwork that turned the composer’s masterpiece into a slushy group of pop tunes employing all the stock tools of the Broadway hack.

The Second Set of Copland’s Old American Songs, however, was a total joy in the hands of conductor Craig Denison and his crack team known as Florida’s Singing Sons. The choral arrangement, which usually suffers in clarity when compared to the solo vocal arrangement, had no such problem here. The well trained boys sang as one, and deserve all the accolades one can bestow upon them. Intonation, pure as a mountain stream, left one wishing that the gems from the First Set had been scheduled as well.

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One Response to “Pianist Prats and Singing Sons best in mixed SOA concert”

  1. Posted Nov 20, 2008 at 10:11 am by Squathole

    It was my pleasure to attend this performance on Tuesday night. I especially enjoyed Maestro Prats’s encores, and the sense of humor he exhibited while engaging the audience with his graceful play.

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Wed Nov 19, 2008
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