Benedetti’s Prokofiev sparks romantic fire with New World Symphony

By Nevena Stanić Kovačević

Nicola Benedetti performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony Friday night in Miami Beach.

Under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, the New World Symphony presented a program filled with fire and romance Friday night—music of Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann framed Nicola Benedetti’s passionate rendering of Sergei Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto in an evening perfectly fit for Valentine’s Day.

The concert at New World Center opened with Liszt’s Prometheus. In this symphonic poem, Liszt weaves the story about Prometheus, who was punished for stealing the precious fire from Zeus. Conducting fellow Chad Goodman quickly gave the downbeat in a hectic start to take the audience into the world of its mythic heroes.

Goodman led the orchestra with precision, agility and fervor, introducing a note of serenity into the heroic themes. The double bass section contributed to the drama with clear and powerful accents, while the brass section underlined Liszt’s pomposity. The dynamic nuances were well-shaped, especially and the strings shone in the majestic final section.

The fire of Prometheus continued with soloist Nicola Benedetti in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Prokofiev wrote this piece in 1935, during the final years of his exile and prior to returning to the USSR. While not directly programmatic, the music feels like a  contemplation on many chapters of his life–his exile from Russia, nomadic life in the United States, and finally his return to Europe reflected in the final Spanish theme.

In the opening melody of Allegro moderato, Benedetti gave the Russian folk theme a powerful sound, yet without sacrificing its lyrical qualities. Stark dissonances followed in the dialog with the orchestra. Tilson Thomas created a perfect balance between the solo and tutti sections, allowing the violinist to express without disturbance the more sardonic parts. 

The Andante assai delivered a rich romance expression apt for Valentine’s Day. Tilson Thomas and the orchestra shaped the ravishing romantic phrases. marvelously. In the Allegro ben marcato finale, Benedetti’s exquisite virtuosity vividly delivered the Spanish motives (supported by the castanets). Emphasizing exciting dissonances between the orchestra and soloist, the support of Tilson Thomas and the orchestra made an effective closure to the performance.

Though Schumann left no direct program for the “Rhenish” Symphony, some motifs still are reminiscent of the landscape and scenery of the Rhine River and the city of Düsseldorf where the composer lived with his family.

The New World Symphony performed Robert Schumann’s Third Symphony in all its picturesque elements depicting the cathedrals Gothic grandeur and well as the shimmering flow of the Rhine. 

In the first movement, the symphony’s grandeur was illustrated in its heroic opening theme. Tilson Thomas conveyed a fine dynamic range in the orchestra, while letting the music speak for itself, allowing the musicians unrestricted freedom, while effectively directing this musical ship on its journey. The same expressive liberty given to the musicians created delicate pizzicato playing in sections of the second movement. This Scherzo, a sonic representation of a pleasant morning on the River Rhine, brought a dash of classicism to this expansive work. The communication between the conductor and musicians was extraordinary and could easily be read on the musicians’ joyful faces.

The middle movement serves as a philosophical intermission in the middle of the piece. Through the warm singing melody of the woodwinds, the atmosphere of the New World Center was colored with meditative tones that prepared for the elaborate solemnity of the ensuing fourth movement (although the orchestra needed a couple of moments to shift from the lull of the preceding music).

Apart from some awkward entrances, the New World brass magnificently bolstered the orchestra’s sonority. In the finale, the atmosphere of the joyful theme returned in the exhilarating finale.

The program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Saturday.; 305-673-3331.

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Sat Feb 15, 2020
at 3:30 pm
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