Critic Picks for 2022-23

By Lawrence Budmen

Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter will perform with the Mutter Virtuosi in West Palm Beach and Miami in Jan.-Feb. 2023. Photo: Monika Höfler

Music of Rachmaninoff. New World Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas and Yefim Bronfman. October 22.

The romantic repertoire has long been a specialty of Michael Tilson Thomas. The New World Symphony’s founder and laureate conductor returns with an all-Rachmaninoff concert at the Arsht Center in Miami that should combine passion, emotional projection and musicality in equal measure. Yefim Bronfman, long a formidable keyboard virtuoso and frequent New World guest, solos in the Piano Concerto No. 3. The Vocalise and Symphony No. 2 complete the program.

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Lahav Shani. November 9 (Kravis Center, West Palm Beach) and November 10 (Arsht Center, Miami).

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra returns to South Florida under the baton of Lahav Shani, the ensemble’s first new music director in nearly five decades (following Zubin Mehta’s historic tenure) and the first native Israeli to hold the position. At the Kravis Center performance, Shani pairs the First Symphony of Mahler with the Symphony No.1 by Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984), Israel’s first significant classical composer. The Arsht Center concert brings an all Prokofiev program—music from Romeo and Juliet and two contrasting symphonies—the lighthearted “Classical” (No. 1) and monumental No. 5.;

“Songs from the Salon” Susanna Phillips, soprano. Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach. December 7.

Serious vocal recitals are becoming an endangered species in South Florida. The Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach has come up with a unique event. Met soprano Susanna Phillips is joined by two longtime members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center—violist Paul Neubauer and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott—for “Songs from the Salon” at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach.The engaging repertoire includes works by Rachmaninoff, Gounod and Schumann and songs from Italy and the British Isles.

Schubert and Tchaikovsky symphonies. Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst. January 20-21, 2023.

The return of the world-class Cleveland Orchestra and its Austrian music director after a two-year absence is a cause for celebration. Two touchstones of the orchestral repertoire—Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (“Unfinished”) and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pathetique”)—should provide ample opportunity for the ensemble to display its rich sonority, precision and distinctive understated virtuosity.

Puccini: Gianni Schicchi and Ching: Buoso’s Ghost. Florida Grand Opera. January 28-February 11.

It is rare that any opera receives a sequel. Florida Grand Opera has come up with an intriguing double bill. Puccini’s sparkling comedy Gianni Schicchi (from Il Trittico)—best known for the aria “O mio babbino caro,” is paired with Buoso’s Ghost by contemporary composer Michael Ching. In Ching’s one acter, the scheming Donati family continues their attempt to collect the dead Buoso Donati’s fortune, as it is revealed that his demise may not have been from natural causes. The offbeat double-bill should make for a diverting comedic souffle. Composer Ching conducts.

Conductor Lahav Shani will lead the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Kravis Center and Arsht Center in November. Photo: Marco Borggreve

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons. Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Mutter Virtuosi. January 31 (Kravis Center, West Palm Beach) and February 1 (Arsht Center, Miami).

Anne-Sophie Mutter is one of the music world’s most brilliant violin virtuosos and a deeply probing interpreter of diverse repertoire. Her South Florida appearances have been too few and far between. In a welcome return, Mutter brings a chamber orchestra of string protégées. She assays Vivaldi’s perennial Four Seasons as soloist, in a program that also includes more Vivaldi, Grand Cadenza for two violins by Unsuk Chin and the Concerto No. 5 in A Major by Mozart contemporary Joseph Bologne. This is one of the season’s most promising offerings.;

Weill: The Road of Promise. Orchestra Miami/Elaine Rinaldi. February 4 and 5.

In 1937, The Eternal Road, Kurt Weill’s first American work, was premiered in New York. A four hour opera-pageant, the work mixes stories from the Biblical Old Testament along with a warning about Nazism and the potential holocaust that was on the horizon. Elaine Rinaldi leads Orchestra Miami in Ed Harsh’s slimmed down oratorio version of the score in this enterprising South Florida premiere at Temple Emanu-el, Miami Beach.  Soloists include tenor Anthony Dean Griffey as the Rabbi, baritone Mark Delavan in the roles of Moses, Abraham and Jeremiah and soprano Elizabeth Caballero as Rachel.

Bach: Ascension Oratorio. Seraphic Fire/Patrick Quigley. February 23-26.

Miami’s superb chamber choir is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season. The latest iteration of Seraphic Fire’s annual Enlightenment Festival is devoted to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. For the festival’s closing program, Patrick Quigley conducts a rare performance of Bach’s Ascension Oratorio. The choir is joined by chamber orchestra and singers from the group’s UCLA Ensemble Artists Program. The concert also features highlights from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, blending music of Christmas and Easter. Performances will take, place in Naples, Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton. 

Music from Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung. New World Symphony/Domingo Hindoyan with Heidi Melton. March 18-19.

Wagner in Miami has long been a rarity. The New World Symphony will remedy that situation with a full program of orchestral and vocal excerpts from the four-opera Ring of the Nibelung cycle. From the “Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla” (Das Rheingold) to Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene  (Götterdämmerung), the concert offers a tour of the cycle’s big moments. Domingo Hindoyan, principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, leads this Cliff Notes edition. Heidi Melton, who has sung Wagnerian heroines at major houses, performs Sieglinde’s love music and Brünnhilde’s final sacrifice.

Messiaen: Des canyons aux étoiles. New World Symphony/Matthias Pintscher. April 1.

Olivier Messiaen’s last major orchestral work was Des canyons aux étoiles (From the Canyons to the Stars), a sprawling twelve-movement, symphonic soundscape. Written in celebration of the American Bicentennial, the work reflects Messiaen’s trademark sonic reflections of bird song, nature and spiritual monumentality. Composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher is on the podium for New World’s traversal with guest musicians from Paris’ Ensemble Intercontemporain (of which Pintscher is artistic director).

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