Naples Philharmonic makes decent if nonrevelatory showing at Kravis

By Alan Becker

In its appearance at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, the Naples (Florida) Philharmonic, under guest conductor Stuart Malina, chose a program of safety and familiarity. Sunday night’s performance at the Dreyfoos Concert Hall moved things along in an acceptable, if hardly revelatory, fashion.

Weber’s overture to the opera Der Freischutz  is one of his best-known works. It is also a good measure of the status of an orchestra when the French horns can steal in softly at the start without fluffing their exposed entry. That they accomplished this set a positive tone for the concert to come. If the overture and other works revealed a certain reticence on the part of the woodwinds, it could well be due to an unfamiliarity with the hall’s acoustics. References to the `Wolf’s Glen’ scene passed with little of the chilling effect required, resulting in a homogenized blandness that left the music with little contrast.

Grieg’s famous Piano Concerto comes up against some stiff competition over a lifetime of concert-going. If the music remained stubbornly earthbound, it was not due to any major deficiencies on the part of pianist Jodie DeSalvo, who acquitted herself reasonably well, several clinkers apart.  Malina’s no-nonsense approach should have allowed for more expressive phrasing and give-and-take with his soloist, but rarely did so. DeSalvo made the most of the first movement’s cadenza, and the Adagio’s melting harmonies.

It was with Beethoven’s Symphony No.2 in D that Malina and the orchestra came into their own and delivered the best performance of the evening. With the composer wrestling with his impending deafness, the music refuses to show any self-pity, and turns in the direction of joyful, life-affirming freshness of invention. The lengthy Larghetto unfolded with considerable beauty, but stubbornly refused to relax as it pressed forward with relentless motion.

In all, it was still a good middle-of-the-road interpretation. The Naples Philharmonic is a decent orchestra, and while the entire program,
was never less than adequate, the playing was not especially strong in personality.

Posted in Performances

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Mon Jan 19, 2009
at 9:21 am
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