Buffalo Philharmonic makes a solid showing at Kravis Center

By Lawrence Budmen

JoAnn Falletta conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in music of Ibert, Mozart and Dvorak Tuesday at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

JoAnn Falletta conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in music of Ibert, Mozart and Dvorak Tuesday at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

When the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra last visited South Florida in 2010, the ensemble played at the acoustically dull Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale. The return visit of the upstate New York orchestra under music director Joann Falletta  encompassed two programs at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, a much more flattering aural environment to display the group’s considerable strengths and occasional weaknesses. Monday afternoon’s matinee, part of the Regional Arts series, featured a Mozart masterpiece, a French tribute to the genius from Salzburg and less familiar Dvorak.

Falletta opened the program with a spirited account of Homage a Mozart, a delightful French soufflé by Jacques Ibert that combines the high-stepping Gallic rhythms of the music hall with hints of the classical style. Composed for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s birth in 1957, the score pays tribute to Mozart without ever quoting his music but it formed a fine prelude to a Mozart classic. The crisp articulation of the violins and silvery flute melody were highlights of a light, French accented romp. Only some overemphatic trumpets intruded on the musical merriment.

Ricardo Morales, principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was a top-notch soloist in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major.  In early January, Morales gave an eloquent performance of Brahms’ F minor Clarinet Sonata for Miami’s Friends of Chamber Music and he was no less persuasive with Mozart.

One of Mozart’s final completed scores, the concerto manages to be a fine showpiece for the solo instrument that suggests darker undercurrents beneath its surface gleam. Morales mined both extremes, executing the florid runs and leaps between registers in the first movement with nimble dexterity. Playing with clear, deep tone he captured the  poignancy and dramatic interplay.  Falletta was a consummate partner, infusing the music with life and drawing smooth and polished playing from the strings.

In the Adagio, Morales found the depth of feeling and emotional warmth to make the music really sing, his low notes firmly planted, with Falletta beautifully accompanying Morales’ solo line. A self-effacing artist, Morales emphasized delicacy and lovely tonal colors rather than flash in the light-hearted Rondo finale. His artful performance matched Mozart on his own terms.

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 in D Major is not nearly as frequently played as his last three symphonies but it is a beautiful score, filled with beguiling melodies and vigorous Czech dances. Falletta commanded Dvorak’s large scale symphonic arc while delineating minute instrumental details and gave proper weight to both the score’s Czech and Brahmsian influences.

The orchestra gave a capable, well coordinated performance but lacked the polish that a first-tier orchestra can bring to the music. Falletta captured the flowing line of the Adagio, a spot-on horn solo and excellent winds spinning the  melodies. The Furiant was bright and emphatic, the supple wind interlude and propulsive coda charging up the intensity level.

Falletta did not succumb to the temptation to play the finale at too rapid a clip, allowing the music to unfold in a spacious, natural manner. The incisive Czech rhythms and dramatic climaxes were well controlled. In the score’s closing pages, however, the string tone felt far too lightweight and compressed against the imposing brass. Still, the concert was a fine testament to Falletta’s impressive work with this generally strong regional ensemble.

The Regional Arts Series continues 8 p.m. February 25 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach with Leonard Slatkin conducting the Detroit Symphony in works by Ravel and Morton Gould with pianist Olga Kern as soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. 561-832-7469; kravis.org.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Tue Feb 11, 2014
at 9:01 am
No Comments