Israel Philharmonic soars with Bruckner at Arsht Center

By Lawrence Budmen

Yoel Levin conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Wednesday night at the Arsht Center in Miami.

Yoel Levi conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Wednesday night at the Arsht Center in Miami.

While most visiting orchestras consistently program symphonic warhorses for their South Florida appearances, the Israel Philharmonic opted for less frequently performed symphonies by Schubert and Bruckner at its performance Wednesday night at the Arsht Center. Yoel Levi was on the podium in Miami, substituting for the ensemble’s ailing music director Zubin Mehta during this American tour.

The Symphony No. 3 in D Major is a work by the 18-year- old Franz Schubert and it is a charmer. While the early Schubert symphonies lack the profundity of his final two works in that genre, they are filled with wonderful thematic material and felicitous instrumental writing. The Third Symphony falls somewhere between the classicism of Haydn and the romantic impulses of Mendelssohn.

Levi, conductor of the KBS Symphony in Seoul, South Korea, did not always find the balance between those diverse stylistic impulses. Despite a lithe pace, the first movement emerged in a band-masterish manner, the brass overwhelming strings and winds. Brightly articulated solos by first chair flute, clarinet and oboe players managed to capture some of the score’s élan.

The main theme of the Allegretto is one of Schubert’s most beguiling melodies and Levi infused it with the right mix of elegance and frothy snap, displaying the richness of the string sound. Despite fine ensemble playing, the third movement was slightly heavy handed. Levi’s more flowing tempo for the wind trio section would have been welcome throughout the movement which fell short of the Vivace marking. There was more than enough requisite verve, however, in the final Presto. While Schubert’s repetitions can become tedious, Levi kept the energy and momentum going.

The Symphony No. 7 in E minor may be Anton Bruckner’s most popular work, but any Bruckner performance in Miami is an event. After decades of playing Bruckner symphonies under Mehta, the Israel Philharmonic is a true Bruckner orchestra with the corporate weight and sonorous luster to alight these large scale symphonic cathedrals.

From the first bars of the initial Allegro moderato by the unison cellos, Bruckner’s long themes were given a deep imprint by the superb Israel string section. The undertow of the eight double basses was clearly heard and felt. Levi’s astute pacing was measured but never plodding and he brought out the Viennese warmth and Brahmsian eloquence in the score.

The Adagio is one of Bruckner’s greatest creations. The composer learned of Wagner’s death while he was writing it and the movement became a memorial to the master of Bayreuth. Levi’s spacious tempo allowed the music’s elegiac power to build organically. The string playing had the blended strength and subtlety of chamber music. Four Wagner tubas (an instrument that mixes the sonorities of a horn and trombone) combined with the full brass section in the mighty climaxes.

The rhythmic impetus of the scherzo was tightly controlled, the clarion trumpet gleaming in the principal motif. Levi infused tension into the thematic threads at the outset of the finale. His broader, more expansive molding of the secondary subject provided apt contrast.  Solo flute floated over animated phrases in the well balanced strings, one of many details Levi etched with clarity.

With the mellow, rounded brass at full throttle, the symphony’s final pages were stirring. A long ovation from the nearly full house with many cheers and bravos greeted the symphony’s conclusion.

The Arsht Center presents the Academy of St Martin in the Fields playing Albinoni’s Concerto No. 5, C.P.E. Bach’s Symphony in E, Haydn’s Symphony No. 44 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 and Britten’s Young Apollo with soloist Jeremy Denk  8 p.m. February 23.; 305-949-6722.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Thu Feb 7, 2019
at 12:15 pm
No Comments