Pianist sparks exciting finale to Miami Symphony season

By David Fleshler

Eduardo Marturet

The Miami Symphony Orchestra is ending its 22nd season this weekend in a wash of Romanticism, highlighted by a thundering performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

The soloist was the 30-year-old Russian pianist Yury Shadrin, a student of Leon Fleischer and winner of several international competitions. Shadrin has a superb technique that allowed him to blaze through this difficult work, drawing a standing ovation from the audience at the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall. Some of the lyric passages, such as the smoky second theme of the last movement, lacked the sensuality and warmth that’s essential to make them work, but the energy and bravura of his performance more than compensated.

The principal excitement of the performance was the piano’s interplay with the orchestra. The concerto form is often described one that sets the soloist against the orchestra, and rarely was that conflict more palpable than in Friday’s performance. Although the orchestra’s conductor Eduardo Marturet is an extremely attentive accompanist, there were many moments when it seemed that piano and orchestra were striving to out-gun each other. This led to some unbalanced passages, with the orchestra occasionally burying the piano, but for sheer onstage excitement it was hard to beat.

The orchestra’s fine string section, given some of Rachmaninoff’s greatest melodies, shone throughout the performance, from the dark opening melody to the final statement of the finale’s big theme. The final moments of the Adagio were particularly well done, the strings playing with a glowing tone that came through intensity and phrasing rather than volume. Winds, also given a prominent part, were a bit dry in tone and phrasing, lacking the warmth to bring off these passages. But that aside, this was a fine performance.

The concert opened with Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture conducted by Jeffrey Stern, the orchestra’s assistant conductor, who is a second-year doctoral student in choral conducting at the University of Miami. Stern led a vigorous performance that drew as much excitement as possible from Brahms’ pastiche of German student songs.

Less successful was Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. Intonation problems not evident in the Brahms or Rachmaninoff cropped up in the strings, and there was a raw edge to some of the brass passages. The theme of the Allegretto grazioso, one of Dvořák’s most inspired melodies, came off as far too heavy, without the graceful quality intended by the composer. But Marturet’s energy at the podium counts for a lot, and he brought an exhilarating momentum to the final movement.

At the end of the concert, the orchestra performed a “mystery piece,” with a dinner for two and tickets to a concert next season for whoever first guessed its identity. The work for solo violin and orchestra, by an unnamed 19th-century European composer, showed off concertmaster Daniel Andai’s glowing palette of tones as he played a lyric romantic melody, from warm and throaty on the lowest string to liquid and glistening on the highest. The orchestra is lucky to have such a fine musician leading the violins.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra repeats the program 8 p.m. Sunday at the New World Center in Miami Beach. 305-275-5666; themiso.org.

Posted in Performances

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Sat May 14, 2011
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