Orchestra Miami marks Miami High’s 90th with strong performances

By Lawrence Budmen

Elaine Rinaldi conducted Orchestra Miami in a program marking the 90th anniversary of Miami High School Saturday night.

Elaine Rinaldi conducted Orchestra Miami in a program marking the 90th anniversary of Miami High School Saturday night.

Miami High School marks its ninetieth anniversary this year and Orchestra Miami celebrated that milestone Saturday night with a festive concert program. The event took place at the handsomely refurbished auditorium in the venerable building just off West Flagler Street in Miami. 

The evening began with a film documenting the school’s history and plans for redesign of the campus. Artistic director Elaine Rinaldi commented that her research in the institution’s archives indicated that the school once had a large and diverse music program. In addition to a marching band, there were two orchestras, a harp club (because there were so many harpists on campus) and an annual operetta production.

The program proved to be one of Orchestra Miami’s most successful showings to date with a consistently high level of orchestral performance and finely attuned leadership by Rinaldi. In the opening Overture to Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, Jr., the strings’ unanimity and strong attack were immediately evident. Rinaldi captured much of the fizzy atmosphere in Strauss’s distinctive brand of three-quarter time.

Gershwin’s An American in Paris was written in 1928, the same year that the school’s present campus opened. Snappy brass and crackling percussion anchored a reading that brought out the jazzy fervor of Gershwin’s score. There were first-rate solos from clarinet, trumpet and violin, the last floated with a finely phrased nostalgia. Although the orchestra’s string section was relatively small (16 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, 2 basses), the hall’s warm acoustic gave the group’s corporate sound greater depth and amplitude.

Prior to the opening of Dade County Auditorium in 1951, the auditorium at Miami High was the home of professional opera productions in Miami. In honor of that history and the school’s student operetta presentations, soprano Jennifer Zamorano sang “Art is Calling for Me” from Victor Herbert’s 1911 operetta The Enchantress. Zamorano brought glamour, agile vocal acrobatics and idiomatic lightness to Herbert’s period showpiece.

The program concluded with a strong performance of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”). 

There was a fine sense of ebb and flow in Rinaldi’s swiftly paced traversal of the first movement. The lower strings excelled with depth of tone in the Adagio introduction. A spaciously phrased Largo and folk-infused Scherzo set the stage for a high energy finale. Clarion brass sounded the iconic theme and Rinaldi kept the tension flowing right up to the soft final bars. Dvorak’s symphonic paean to America made an appropriate conclusion to a celebration of a Miami landmark.

Orchestra Miami presents “Finding Ophelia,” songs and arias about Shakespeare’s heroine, with soprano Susana Diaz and pianist Elaine Rinaldi 4 p.m. April 22 in The Lodge Room at Scottish Rite Temple in Miami.  orchestramiami.org

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Sun Jan 21, 2018
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