Pianist Ning An makes exciting impact with Orchestra Miami

By Alan Becker

Orchestra Miami often gets confused with its similar namesake, the Miami Symphony Orchestra. The latter was founded in 1989, while Orchestra Miami is the new kid on the block, established in 2006. It also boasts of being the only fully professional orchestra in Miami while the same claim is made by the Miami Symphony. It is best to leave any discrepancies behind, as the area can only be enhanced by an abundance of competing musical activities. 
Elaine Rinaldi joins an increasing number of women entering the field as podium leader, and Friday’s concert at Miami-Dade County Auditorium provided a reasonable example of her style. Rinaldi directs with a gentle, non-demonstrative baton technique that manages to get things done without seeming to connect with the music on a visceral level. 
The concert venue was not a particularly happy one for the orchestra. From the opening of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, it was apparent that the strings took on a glassy sheen, and the entire group sounded opaque with little depth. The first trumpet player left in time for his offstage fanfare,  and though well played,  he might as well have stayed on stage, since the sound was not nearly distant enough to make its effect.  
Pianist Ning An, a prizewinner at the 1999 Queen Elizabeth Music Competition, and the 2000 National Chopin Competition, has received many additional prizes and a growing schedule of concert engagements. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 suited his skills very well. This is big-boned playing at its best, and the Chinese-American pianist generated quite a bit of excitement as his technical prowess and musical dynamism breathed new life into the old warhorse. The orchestra sounded a little raw at times but they played robustly and with reasonably accurate intonation. 
The printed program also credited Ning An as soloist in Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, but, thankfully, this was not a unique version of the work never heard before.

 Rinaldi and Orchestra Miami presented a reasonable traversal of Brahms’ masterpiece from an orchestra just one size too small to do full justice to the composer’s conception.  The profoundly dramatic opening began well but soon went limp under Rinaldi’s tentative baton. Concertmaster Mei Mei Luo’s beautiful violin solos in the Andante failed to emerge properly from within the string balance.

  The tear-inducing French horn and flute passages leading to the final Allegro non troppo did make their full effect, however, and the final catharsis was effectively executed.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Pianist Ning An makes exciting impact with Orchestra Miami”

  1. Posted May 19, 2009 at 5:29 pm by Lilia Oliviani

    I attended this concert and I disagree with a few crucial points in Mr. Becker’s review. First of all, that Maestro Rinaldi conducted “without seeming to connect on a visceral level”. I found the opposite to be true; She seemed deeply and instinctually connected to the music, based on the engaging lushness of the orchestra’s playing in response. I was also struck by the nuanced interplay between the orchestra and Ning An, under Rinaldi’s sensitive (not “tentative”, as Mr. Becker characterized it) baton. I hope we hear much more of this orchestra under the artistic direction of Rinaldi.

    Lilia Oliviani
    Miami Shores

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Sat May 16, 2009
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