Miami Symphony Orchestra proves rough and not always ready in over-ambitious season opener

By Lawrence Budmen

Eduardo Marturet conducted the Miami Symphony Orchestra Sunday night at the Arsht Center.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra was recently proclaimed the official symphony orchestra of Miami by Mayor Francis Suarez and the Miami City Commission. 

Despite that honor, on Sunday evening at the Arsht Center, the ensemble proved highly uneven at a season-opening concert that included two world premieres, a Mahler curio and a repertoire staple by Brahms. Conductor Eduardo Marturet certainly is not lacking in ambition.

Blumine is a slow movement that Mahler deleted from his Symphony No. 1. Since its rediscovery in the 1960s, it has occasionally been played as an independent piece (and a few conductors have even inserted it back into the symphony).  

On its own term, Blumine is a lovely work. A trumpet spearheads an alluring melody, buffered by darker mood settings in the strings. Marturet displayed a fine affinity for the shading of darkness and light in the score. Solo trumpet set an appropriately lyrical aura and lower strings produced a full-bodied corporate sonority.

The Concerto for Electric Bass and Orchestra by Rodner Padilla, a MISO commission, was an illustration of the pitfalls of combining pop artists and their distinctive musical idiom with a symphonic ensemble. Following an ominous and foreboding slow introduction that was promising, the brief work degenerated into a modernist pop-movie soundtrack. From the enthusiastic audience response, Padilla is a popular local favorite. He obviously commands his instrument and played flashy solo riffs with relish.  Still, like most talented pop and rock performers, he would be best heard without the trappings of a classical ensemble pasted on as window dressing.

Karen LeFrak’s Piano Concerto (“Summer”), also a commissioned world premiere, lived up to its subtitle in diverting brightness of spirit. The disarming simplicity of this ten-minute opus masks a plethora of inspired thematic ideas. LeFrak shows a real sense of instrumental coloration, writing as lucidly for the orchestra as for the keyboard. Korean-born Yoonie Han navigated the solo lines gracefully and with fastidious attention to detail. Marturet and the players matched her in deft brio.

The middle movements fared best in a less than cohesive reading of Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E minor. An intimately scaled Andante moderato received nuanced and varied contrasts of dynamics that would have been welcome elsewhere in an otherwise  blatant performance. Under concertmaster Daniel Andai, string tone emerged full bodied. A robust Allegro giocoso crackled with the emery and flavor of a Brahms Hungarian dance. Bright and exact in timbral balance, the movement produced the most impressive full ensemble playing of the evening.

If only the outer movements had fared as well.  During the first movement, there were persistent lapses in winds and brass. Balances sometimes went awry, brasses drowning out the other instrumental choirs, and  crisp accents could turn blunt. Marturet led the final passacaglia at a sluggish pace. A beautifully calibrated flute solo could not mask much of the orchestra’s coarse and ragged playing.

Eduardo Marturet next conducts the Miami Symphony Orchestra 6 p.m. February 12, 2023 at the Arsht Center in Miami. The program inclcdes Marturet’s Magnetic Pulses for Singing Bowls and Orchestra, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Karen LeFrak’s Guitar Concerto and Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso with violinist Daniel Andai.            

Posted in Performances

2 Responses to “Miami Symphony Orchestra proves rough and not always ready in over-ambitious season opener”

  1. Posted Oct 24, 2022 at 7:09 pm by William H. Cohen

    This was not an easy concert to take in. Mixing Mahler with a pop bass concerto is like drinking a glass of exquisite red wine and then following it up with a shot of well aguardiente. The LeFrak was a welcomed relief of lightness and simplicity.

    When it comes to the Brahms, MISO unfortunately was not up to the task. Here I agree with Mr. Budman, While there were some bright spots(principal flute), overall it was a disheveled reading.

    It is admirable that Maestro Marturet is pushing his troops in the Arsht, however it might be best, as the official symphony orchestra of Miami, for MISO to focus more on the outdoor popular concerts they do which are extremely well received by the greater Miami community.

  2. Posted Oct 25, 2022 at 6:27 am by Dennis Sprung

    The Karen LeFrak piece was a graceful breath of fresh air, bringing warmth and creativity for the listeners enjoyment. Congratulations to her talent and kindness in sharing that makes others smile.

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Mon Oct 24, 2022
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