SOA 25thAnniversaryLogo350FORT LAUDERDALE, FL -- Each summer the indefatigable James Brooks-Bruzzese and the Symphony of the Americas present a European chamber orchestra in an extensive tour encompassing Latin America and South Florida as well as the ensemble's home base. I Musici Estensi lit up the stage of the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater on Friday night with an outstanding concert, a high watermark for the annual Summerfest. Based in Milan and Turin, the group's flawless ensemble, precision, bright and rounded sonority and wide idiomatic spectrum were consistently impressive throughout an adventurous program of new and less familiar scores.

Joined by several members of the Symphony of the Americas, the 15 member string ensemble opened the evening with the Prelude to La Traviata, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi's birth. From the opening bars, I Musici Estensi's silky strings soared, the cellos exuding richness and depth in the flowing melody of Violetta's aria Amami Alfredo. The music of Baroque composer Enrique Felice Dall'Abaco is rarely heard. His Concerto, Op. 6, No. 12 received its Florida premiere and the score suggests that a revival of this composer's music is overdue. An invigorating opening Allegro demonstrated the sheen and brilliance of the orchestra's string tone. Strong, repetitive chords lead the solemn central movement, followed by a dance like finale. The Italianate lightness of the vivacious figurations and Brook-Bruzzese's vigorous, stylish leadership were a constant source of delight.

Two movements from Spanish composer Eduardo Lopez Chavarri's Acuarelas Valencianas contrasted a classical Cancion with a crisp, rhythmically vibrant Danza. A contrasting middle section brought a haunting, ruminative viola solo, broadly shaped by Sandro Moscaro. Symphony of the Americas' principal flutist Marilyn Maingart took center stage for her own transcription for flute, strings and piano of the Allegro giocoso finale from Dvorak's Violin Concerto in A minor. Dvorak's infectious Czech rhythms and melodic fluency are irrisistible. This too rarely played score worked surprisingly well as a flute showpiece. Maingart's skillful arrangement takes the full measure of Dvorak's Slavonic themes. Her elegant phrasing, brilliant execution of trills and ornaments and rapid fire triple tonguing concluded the concert's first half on a high note indeed.

The second half showcased the Renaissance talents of Lorenzo Turchi-Floris as pianist, composer, conductor and more. As Summerfest's Composer-in-Residence, Turchi-Floris' Piece for String Orchestra received its world premiere and this score is a winner. Thoroughly modernist yet tinged with a font of Italianate melody, Turch-Floris' score is a superb addition to the string chamber orchestra repertoire. The initial Moderato begins with a long held note, establishing an aura of stillness. Skittering thematic fragments morph into an Animato, an incisive neo-Classical theme alighting through the instrumentation. A solo cello opens the second movement Andante with a darkly pensive melody. As the violas and violins add richness to the instrumental texture, the theme takes wing in the full ensemble. Turch-Floris conducted his score superbly, drawing molten hued sonority from the Musici Estensi players. IIaria Calabro's deep cello tone and noble phrasing were a standout amidst a splendid ensemble performance.

Remembering Naples by Guido Galterio, a friend and colleague of Turchi-Floris, was a delightful melding of classical and populist Neapolitan musical modes. An initial Moderato sings like a Neapolitan song, Turch-Floris bringing aristocratic pianism to the tuneful piano line. Funiculi-Funicula shines through the indigenous folk rhythms of the Vivace, Turch-Floris dazzling in rapid jazz and stride pianistic riffs. The Florida premiere of the great Astor Piazolla's Fugata, in an arrangement by concertmaster Orlando Forte, mixes the soul of Piazzolla's Nuevo Tango with Bachian counterpoint. Forte, a Symphony of the Americas player, has skillfully conceived a mini concerto grosso version with a prominent roles for two violins, viola and cello. Brooks-Bruzzese led a blazing, wonderfully idiomatic account of this quintessentially Piazzolla gem.

Turch-Floris demonstrated yet more versatility playing the typewriter solos of Leroy Anderson's The Typewriter, the first of two encores. One of many vignettes written by Anderson for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, The Typewriter brings back memories of the pre-computer age. Turchi-Floris rhythmic dexterity and witty ambience at the upright added the right touch of humor to Anderson's catchy melodies, articulated with élan by the players. Brooks-Bruzzese concluded with a brisk, high precision reading of the first movement from Gustav Holst's St. Paul Suite. Light years removed from Holst's spectacular orchestral showpiece The Planets, the spirited dance tunes received plush tonal hues and energetic articulation.

Summerfest concludes with performances by the I Musici Estensi chamber orchestra 7 p.m. Saturday at the Crest Theater, Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square (, 561-243-7922, ext. 1) and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Sunrise Civic Center (, 954-747-4646).

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