Bernstein and Marquez works fare best with de la Parra, Miami Symphony

By Peter James Learn

Alondra de la Parra conducted the Miami Symphony Orchestra Sunday night at New World Center.

Alondra de la Parra conducted the Miami Symphony Orchestra Sunday night at New World Center.

The Valentine’s Day program presented by the Miami Symphony Orchestra Sunday night at New World Center in Miami Beach boasted a variety of challenging but accessible fare. The orchestra was joined by conductor Alondra de la Parra, whose enthusiasm for the music and energy were evident. For the first half of the concert the orchestra also welcomed Linda Bustani, a Brazilian pianist of international reputation.

The first two works were Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, both of which are athletic and demanding. Bustani’s interpretation of the Prokofiev was energetic and the orchestra under de la Parra put across the first movement’s sudden shifts in mood and eerie effects, But at times there were some balance issues, with the orchestra covering her passagework. After the brooding second movement, the antiphonal brass passages of the third were artfully executed and Bustani leaned into the bombastic, percussive writing so characteristic of Prokofiev’s piano music.

The Addinsell concerto, written for the 1941 film Dangerous Moonlight, provided a nice counterpoint to the Bernstein suite in the second half. Bustani’s rendition here was more restrained and sensitive, capturing its lush, Neo-Romantic tone. Balance problems surfaced once again, however, with de la Parra’s over-loud orchestra at times eclipsing the soloist.

Debussy’s Prélude to the Afternoon of a Faun offered an opportunity for MISO flutist Carol Naveira-Nicholson to show off fluid and nuanced control in the famous opening solo. Concertmaster Daniel Andai also stood out, providing a singing counterpoint to the rest of his section. There were, however, a few intonation mishaps in the winds, and the horn section entered in an unfocused manner, though they were quick to correct themselves. Overall, the orchestra did a fine job with this challenging work and the ending was poignantly evocative.

At times rhythmic and dancing, and at others ominous and threatening, Leonard Bernstein’s symphonic suite drawn from his score to On the Waterfront was certainly a crowd-pleaser. The percussionists did an excellent job of navigating the syncopated and interlocking rhythms the work required of them. Saxophonist Dannel Espenoza showed a particularly effective sense of phrasing and dynamic sensitivity, and the offstage horn in antiphony with the rest of the brass choir that Bernstein calls for was also effectively executed under de la Parra’s direction.

Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No. 2 showcased some of the best solo efforts of the evening from the orchestra. The lyrical, Latin melodies and rhythms had de la Parra half conducting, half dancing throughout the work. Notable solos were to be heard from pianist Ciro Fodore, clarinetist Nuno Antunes, and trumpeter Aaron Norlund’s trumpet was of particular note, to the degree that his section was partially encored by de la Parra after an enthusiastic audience ovation.

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Mon Feb 16, 2015
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