Critic’s Choice for the 2017-18 season

By Lawrence Budmen & David Fleshler

Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in two program at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach February 4 and 5. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra February 14 and 15 at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Carson Kievman’s Tesla. September 28- October 1 at the Colony Theater, Miami Beach

Miami-based composer Carson Kievman’s music theater works are often innovative, fusing music, film, dance and digital media. His Fairy Tales: Songs of the Dandelion Woman was a searing portrait of mental illness and Intelligent Systems proved a riveting multimedia exploration of the birth, destruction and rebirth of the universe. 

Now Kievman turns to the saga of scientist Nikola Tesla who broke new ground through his experiments with electricity and the forces of nature only to die in poverty and obscurity. Kenneth Mattice, the protagonist of several recent Kievman scores, sings the title role. The production is directed by Jeffrey Marc Buchman who has staged previous Kievman works and productions for Florida Grand Opera and the Frost Opera Theater. (LB)

Alexander Kerr with the New World Symphony. December 17 at the New World Center, Miami Beach

The New World Symphony’s chamber music programs skillfully combine standard repertoire with contemporary and infrequently heard scores. Performances of Haydn symphonies are a rarity in South Florida and No. 80 in D minor by the father of the symphony is not heard very often anywhere. Dallas Symphony concertmaster Alexander Kerr will be guest leader for a  performance of that score. On the program’s first half, Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor is followed by two works from the 1960s— the Wind Octet by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara and Willow, Willow (for flute, tuba and percussion) by American Paul Chihara. (LB)

Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. February 14 and 15 at the Kravis Center, West Palm Beach 

One of America’s great orchestras makes its first South Florida appearance in a decade. Music director Riccardo Muti takes the helm for two diverse and stimulating programs. The first (February 14 evening) opens with Stravinsky’s Scherzo Fantastique, followed by Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Low Brass, a CSO commission featuring orchestra members. Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, a Muti staple, concludes the concert.

The following afternoon (February 15) Muti bookends the program with orchestral music from operas: Verdi’s Overture to I Vespri Siciliani and Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes. CSO principal clarinet Stephen Williamson solos in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. French mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine, who received critical plaudits for her Met debut last season as Carmen, LINK is the soloist for Ernest Chausson’s beautiful song cycle Poème d’lamour et de la mer. (LB)

Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Seraphic Fire. February 15-17 at various locations.

Can this really be the first time that Seraphic Fire will perform this Bach masterpiece? Over the past 15 years, as the choir grew from a promising local church ensemble to a virtuoso group with a national profile, Seraphic Fire has performed many of the world’s greatest choral works. But the ensemble never has tackled Bach’s double-orchestra, double-chorus portrayal of Christ’s last days. Judging from the choir’s previous Bach performances, we can expect a sensitive, historically informed but never academic performance, with finely wrought solos and rich choral sonorities. (DF)

Bernstein’s Candide at Palm Beach Opera. February 23-25 at the Kravis Center, West Palm Beach.

Best known to listeners from its concert overture, Leonard Bernstein’s Candide flopped on its premiere and is still problematic to stage. Despite its bloated libretto, the operatic musical is full of Bernstein’s fizzy, spiky, sometimes sentimental music. Bernstein tinkered with it for years, working to save the best of the music and bring out the wit of the dialogue, based on the Voltaire novel. Palm Beach Opera will present his trimmed-down final version, prepared in 1988 for the Scottish Opera. (DF)

Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at Florida Grand Opera. March 17-31 at the Arsht Center and Broward Center.

Christolph Willibald Gluck’s setting of the Orpheus legend is one of the towering works in the history of operatic composition. Gluck replaced the static formalism of “opera seria” with a more fully integrated fusion of music and drama. The music is replete with glorious melodies and graceful orchestral and  choral writing. FGO has cast the acclaimed young countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo in the castrato role of Orfeo. (John Holiday, himself a rising star, sings the role in the second cast.) Miami soprano Eglise Gutiérrez is Euridice, Orpheus’ wife, and Anthony Barrese conducts. (LB)

The Miro Quartet performs for the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach October xx and yy.

The Miró Quartet performs for the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach March 19 and 20.

Miró Quartet, The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach. March 19-20 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art and The Breakers of Palm Beach.

The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach has left its home at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and scheduled a strong series of concerts at venues around the county, all the way south to Boca Raton. The series includes concerts by the excellent Ehnes Quartet and the fine violinist Jennifer Koh. But the most interesting concerts may be those by the renowned Miró Quartet that will pair works of Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann, with lighter works of Dvořák and Puccini, as well as the 2007 piece Credo by the American composer Kevin Puts. (DF)

New World Symphony and John Adams. March 31 at New World Center, Miami Beach

With his engaging personality and original but accessible music, John Adams has always been a welcome guest at concerts by the New World Symphony. This season, he will lead a tour of the leading edge of American music, including works by himself, David Lang, Timo Andres, Christopher Marshall and Adams’ son, Samuel Carl Adams. The biggest work will be Andres’ The Blind Banister, Piano Concerto No. 3. Inspired by Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2, it will be performed by the pianist Jonathan Biss, who commissioned it. (DF)

Danish String Quartet. April 14 at the Broward Center, Fort Lauderdale.

The distinguished Scandinavian chamber ensemble makes a South Florida debut with an all-Beethoven program in the intimate Amaturo Theater to conclude the Broward Center’s classical series. The String Quartets Nos. 3, 7, and 14 traverse the three periods of Beethoven’s creative life and display his journey from paying homage to Haydn and Mozart to boldly original compositions that changed music history. (LB)

Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. New World Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas, May 5-6, New World Center, Miami Beach.

Michael Tilson Thomas’ performances of Mahler with the New World Symphony have produced some of the best music-making in South Florida. Taking place well into the season, the performances find the musicians in top form as they play under one of the world’s leading Mahler interpreters. MTT led the New World’s  last performance of the Ninth in 2012, where even in this distinguished a Mahler partnership, the performance stood out for its attention to detail, emotional commitment and grand sense of architecture. (DF)

Patrick Quigley conducts Seraphic Fire's first performances of Bach's St, Matthew Passion April x-y/

Patrick Quigley conducts Seraphic Fire’s first performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion February 15-17.



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