Miami Symphony serves up a Viennese musical new year with a Miami twist

By Lawrence Budmen

Eduardo Marturet conducted the Miami Symphony Orchestra in a Viennese program featuring four premieres Sunday night at the Arsht Center.

The Viennese New Year’s concert has long been a fixture of the holiday season in Europe. In recent decades, this annual review of waltz and polka melodies has become part of the North American cultural calendar.

Eduardo Marturet and the Miami Symphony Orchestra added a new twist to this musical tradition with “Ocean Drive in Vienna” on Sunday night before a large and very enthusiastic audience at the Arsht Center. In addition to the familiar tunes of the Strauss family, the program featured four world premieres by the ensemble’s three composers-in-residence that combined the distinctive rhythms of Miami with the sensibility of the Viennese waltz kings.

Alexander Berti’s American Waltzes was the winner among the new scores. Opening with a virtuosic violin solo, ably realized by concertmaster Daniel Andai, the piece abounds in lustrous and sentimental melodies that recall Miklos Rozsa’s Hollywood film scores. In a Latin-tinged central episode, bongos and indigenous percussion make an appearance. Richly orchestrated and expertly crafted, Berti’s score is a fine addition to the light-music repertoire.

Volare Waltz was the stronger of two pieces by Samuel Hyken. Opening with string tremolos and wind chords from Johann Strauss’s On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Hyken sets Volare, the top ten Italian pop song of the 1950’s, in three quarter time. Witty and ingenuous, the adaptation is a charmer.

Hyken’s Hungarian Dance No. 5–Redux  fuses Brahms with the quirky irreverence of HK Gruber’s Frankenstein.  Gypsy violin solos, timpani rolls, and a driving rock beat pass in review through this modish parade of divergent musical idioms.

Carlos Rivera’s Pizzi-Cuban Polka was a clever reinvention of Strauss’ Pizzicato Polka, the original plucked Viennese melody gradually becoming infused with Latin rhythms.  Following the performance, popular flutist Nestor Torres came on stage in an unannounced appearance to add some additional swinging riffs, assayed with his trademark agility and tonal vibrancy.

Contemporary music always brings out the best in Marturet. He led highly assured, well articulated performances that presented each of the new works in their best light. The richly beautiful string playing in Berti’s lovely vignette was particularly distinguished.

The evening opened with a brisk, no no-nonsense romp through Franz von Suppe’s Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna Overture.  With the exception of some less-than-precise ensemble in the Emperor Waltz, the Strauss pieces were brightly played. The percussion was appropriately emphatic in the Thunder and Lightning Polka and Banditen Gallop. Acceleration Waltz, one of Strauss’ most imaginative pieces, boasted idiomatic hesitations of phrase in the true Viennese manner and an aristocratically shaped Tales from the Vienna Woods concluded the printed program.

Two of the three encores departed from the evening’s theme. Latin television personality Raul Gonzalez pecked away at an old fashioned, pre-computer upright in Leroy Anderson’s The Typewriter. Members of the orchestra whistled the main tune in The Colonel Bogey March (from The Bridge on the River Kwai) and, returning to tradition, a clap-along version of the Radetzky March by Johann Strauss, Sr. concluded the evening to the audience’s delight.

The Miami Symphony’s next program features Eduardo Marturet conducting works by Janacek, Webern, Wagner and Elgar. Concert dates are  8 p.m. February 9 at the FIU Wertheim Auditorium and 4 p.m. February 10 at South Dade Cultural Arts Center. 305-275-5666;

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Miami Symphony serves up a Viennese musical new year with a Miami twist”

  1. Posted Jan 20, 2014 at 9:40 am by Elizabeth

    Indeed, it was a glorious evening filled with anticipation and excitement. Marturet did not disappoint!

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Mon Jan 21, 2013
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