Miami Mozarteum marks composer’s birthday with an impressive debut

By Lawrence Budmen

Scott Flavin led the Miami Mozarteum Orchestra in its debut concert Monday at Trinity Cathedral

Scott Flavin led the Miami Mozarteum Orchestra in its debut concert Monday at Trinity Cathedral

The two hundred and fifty-eighth birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was celebrated Monday night at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Miami with the opening of a three-concert series by the Miami Mozarteum Orchestra. This new twenty-seven piece ensemble performed under the direction of violinist and University of Miami Frost School of Music Professor Scott Flavin.

Miami has lacked a regular professional chamber orchestra since the quiet demise of the highly uneven Miami Chamber Symphony around a decade ago. Most of the musicians in this new group are members of the Florida Grand Opera orchestra, with which Flavin is concertmaster. Among the additional players are Flavin’s Bergonzi String Quartet colleagues, Glenn Basham as concertmaster and Ross Harbaugh in the principal cello chair.

This new orchestra’s future agenda includes plans for outreach, educational activities and a music competition. In his remarks, Flavin stated that all of the musicians contributed a free rehearsal to help produce this concert. The event drew a sizable audience despite the traffic and parking problems endemic to downtown Miami.

Even within the cathedral’s boxy acoustic, the playing emerged remarkably clean and precise with Flavin drawing some nice contrasts of dynamics. The Overture to Apollo et Hyacinthus, Mozart’s first opera written at age 11, was a lively opener.

For this birthday celebration, Flavin concocted an arrangement of Happy Birthday turned into a Mozartean minuet with quotations from Eine kleine Nachtmusik along the way, very stylishly done with an appropriate musical wink.

The Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”), Mozart’s final work in the genre, delivered a taut, sharply accented performance. Flavin prominently spotlighted the wind writing in the Andante cantabile, emphasizing the movement’s drama as well as aristocratic qualities. In a lithe and shapely reading of the finale, the contrapuntal lines and dialogues between instrumental sections emerged with clarity and definition. Aside from some overly prominent trumpets in the finale, Flavin maintained strong instrumental balances.

Joseph Silverstein

Joseph Silverstein

The concert’s highlight was the appearance of soloist Joseph Silverstein. The octogenarian violinist-conductor has a long history of performances in South Florida, most notably his appointment as the largely ceremonial acting music director of the Florida Philharmonic during its final days.

Silverstein’s artistry is still potent. Opening with Mozart’s Adagio in E Major, his silken tone and broad tempo harked back to a past generation of virtuosos, including his teachers Josef Gingold and Efrem Zimbalist. His brisk treatment of the Rondo in C Major was invigorating, the sound full and rich, thinned down to softness in the contrasting central section.

The Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major has long been a Silverstein specialty. From his first entrance, Silverstein’s vigorous and supple playing was stylish in the Classical manner without mannerism or exaggeration, the runs and fast passages cleanly articulated. There was a hint of drama amid the flowing line and graceful strophes of the Adagio.  The “Turkish” section of the finale brought some rapid fireworks, the surrounding minuet lovely and playful.

Flavin and the ensemble offered carefully gauged support. With a good roster of players, a strong soloist and well coordinated music making, the Miami Mozarteum’s debut was a promising one.

The Miami Mozarteum Orchestra season continues with concerts March 10 and May 12 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Miami Mozarteum marks composer’s birthday with an impressive debut”

  1. Posted Jan 29, 2014 at 12:54 am by Susan Courey

    Wonderful review – well-deserved!! A very memorable evening. Look forward to many more Miami Mozarteum concerts!!

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