FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- It is difficult to imagine the history of music without Ludwig van Beethoven. The titan from Bonn almost single handedly reinvented the symphony, string quartet and piano sonata, expanding those forms to new heights of complexity and depth. Beethoven inevitably is identified in the public imagination with the monumental pronouncements of the 3rd and 5th symphonies, the inspired humanism of the 9th Symphony and the path breaking harmonic invention of the late string quartets. Yet there was another side to this complex master. The Symphony of the Americas explored Beethoven's more lyrical, light hearted vein on Tuesday, March 11 at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater.
Aisha Syed, a young violinist from the Dominican Republic, was the remarkable soloist in Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major. Syed has studied at the Royal College of Music and the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin School and counts Dorothy Delay and Itzhak Perlman among her mentors. Syed plays with the kind of probing musicality, imagination and freshness that makes thrice familiar music sound newly conceived. Syed took a few minutes to warm up and adjust to the Amaturo acoustic but, once her performance took wing, Syed's crystalline tone soared and intelligent rendering of Beethoven's difficult string writing was striking. Syed did not fudge some of Beethoven's violin juggernauts like some players invariably do. Her strong musical impulses produced some daring interpretive choices. In her hands, the second movement Larghetto sounded almost operatic, the long breathed musical line deeply songful and serene. Syed brought real gusto to the concluding Rondo, the principle theme given gutsy, almost gypsy like thrust. A deeply gifted artist, Syed offered a stimulating reading of a Beethoven masterwork and mainstay of the concerto repertoire.
Maestro James Brooks-Bruzzese and the Symphony of the Americas offered strongly delineated, vigorous support in the concerto. Brooks-Bruzzese surrounded the concerto with orchestral scores offering contrasting shades of Beethoven. The Coriolan Overture resounded with dramatic strength. The crisp string playing underpinned a performance that transmitted both the tragedy and repose of the ill fated hero Coriolanus.
The Symphony No. 8 in F Major is a high spirited score blooming with the kind of wit not usually associated with Beethoven. Brooks-Bruzzese conducted this delightful work with appropriate vivacity, revealing the score's rough hewn humor, particularly the pin point rhythm of the Allegro Scherzando, Beethoven's send up of the newly invented metronome. A few horn burbles aside, the orchestra was in fine form, playing with robust precision.
As a post Beethoven encore, music from John Williams' Star Wars films provided the evening's large scale orchestral blockbuster. The rich sound of the cellos and violas in the princess' theme was especially lovely and the entire ensemble offered a stirring reading of this American classic.
The Symphony of the Americas season concludes 8:15 p.m. on April 8 at the Amaturo Theater with Classical Favorites and the Best of Broadway mixing works by Wagner, Ravel, De Falla, Williams, Suppe and Sousa with the sounds of Andrew Lloyd Webber, George M. Cohan, Duke Ellington and Frank Loesser. For tickets and information 954-335-7002 www.SymphonyoftheAmericas.org.