Miami Symphony, harmonica soloist mix it up with Latin flair

By Alan Becker

Conductor Eduardo Marturet has chosen a popular program with a┬áLatin twist for his latest outing with the Miami Symphony Orchestra. Saturday’s concert at the University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall, while considerably short of technical perfection, did manage to show this orchestra at or near its best and the multiple bows were well deserved.

Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra was presented with narration intact. In the attractive hands of Spanish television personality Maria Regina Bustamante, the composer’s delightful variations and fugue was narrated in English with just a trace of a Spanish accent, along with several endearing ad libs. The orchestra showcased well and, excepting a few ensemble mishaps and some string scrambling during the fugue, did Purcell’s theme, and the permutations Britten put it through proud.

Madrid-born harmonica virtuoso Antonio Serrano offered two South Florida premieres with Sir Malcolm Arnold’s cheeky Concerto for Harmonica and Astor Piazzolla’s Suite for Harmonica. Even the puckish Arnold could not resist adding some Latin rhythms to his jazz-accented piece, and Tango King Piazzolla did what he does best. Serrano lavished his attention on every phrase as he slithered through the intricate and pop-inflected music. The presence of a microphone to amplify the harmonica tone was unnecessary given the small hall and its live acoustic.

Ravel’s Bolero was dispatched without lingering too long over its many instrumental felicities. Originally written for dancer Ida Rubinstein, the tricky, mesmerizing music suffered no major disasters, although some mishaps and lack of instrumental balancing altered several perspectives we are used to hearing. What the performance lacked in nuance, was somewhat compensated for in its sheer joy and enthusiasm.

Who could resist Mexican composer Arturo Marquez’s infectious Danzon No. 2? This nine-minute audience pleaser is a luscious orgy of Latin sounds and is considered by many to be Mexico’s second national anthem. It builds slowly but ends emphatically enough to bring down the house. Marturet and his crew savored the sounds, and our Southwestern neighbor moved a fraction closer to us.

The program will be repeated 8 p.m. Sunday at the Lincoln Theatre, 541 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. $15-$60. 305-275-5666;

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Sun Dec 7, 2008
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