The Symphony of the America's annual Summerfest lights up summer evenings every year and Saturday night's concert at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater by the Mission Chamber Orchestra of Rome was a high spirited delight from first note to last. Composed of international musicians (and bolstered by several Symphony of the Americas members), the ensemble is first class, playing with precision, energy and Italianate fervor. Led by Symphony of the Americas artistic director James Brooks-Bruzzese, the concert offered an enticing mix of familiar and rarely played music as well as two new works.

The generous program opened with the Preludium from Serenade for Strings by Dag Wiren. A prolific Swedish composer, Wiren stated that his aim was to create music that was unabashedly contemporary, yet entertaining. The string serenade, his most famous work, certainly accomplishes that goal with music that is angular but tangy and melodious. Brooks-Bruzzese led a crisp, transparent performance with particularly incisive, edge of the seat playing from the violins.

Anitra's Dance from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite is thrice familiar fare but Brooks-Bruzzese offered a freshly minted reading, the music's exotic charm wonderfully calibrated at a brisk pace. The orchestra's clean, transparent articulation was a joy to hear. Music of Baroque composer Evaristo Felice Dall'Abaco deserves more frequent performances. Last year's Summerfest performance featured one of his finely wrought scores and the opening Allegro from the composer's Concerto da Chiesa, Op. 2, No. 4 was equally charming. While formal and stately, this music is replete with life and vigorous thematic inspiration. The patrician unison string playing was both idiomatic and vibrant.

Two new scores were fine additions to the light music repertoire. Presentiments by Lorenzo Turchi-Floris, the orchestra's artistic director, is a moody, atmospheric work. Resident composer for Summerfest, Turchi-Floris is a triple threat - an excellent conductor, fine pianist and gifted composer. Presentiments opens with tremolos in the violas over plucked strings, immediately establishing the pensive mood. A ruminative cello melody gives way to a rich and evocative theme in the violins. The second section is  broadly shaped, gradually becoming more intense and agitated. Concertmaster Orlando Forte's sonorous violin solo captured the score's romantic ethos. Turchi-Floris conducted a high voltage performance of his winning creation.

The Summerfest ensemble has been invited to present a concert at the University of Florida in Gainesville on August 15 as part of the celebration of the centennial of the Panama Canal which was first opened to ships in 1914. For the occasion, Panamanian composer Juan Castillo has written Rhapsody on a Canal which received its premiere at this performance.  Castillo is one of Panama's most distinguished musicians and educators. He is a world class oboist who has concertized widely around the globe. Scored for strings, flute, oboe and piano, Castillo's rhapsodic tour is a sparking confection of Panamanian tunes. The composer contributed vibrant oboe solos and veteran Symphony of the Americas flutist Marilyn Maingart offered stalwart support with executive director Renee La Bonte, who hosted the program, elegantly shaping the keyboard lines. A fine pops concert score, Castillo's rhapsody is more than a mere occasion piece.

In addition to being an excellent, well traveled flutist, Maingart is an adventurous and imaginative arranger. She soloed in two terrific transcriptions. Habanera from the Spanish Dances, Op. 21 by violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate features curving melodic lines and rapid fireworks. Maingart's tone was lovely and pure, even in the instrument's highest register. She splendidly encompassed the rapid fire runs in bravura fashion. Even more impressive was Maingart's version of Herbert L. Clarke's famous set of trumpet variations on The Carnival of Venice. That jaunty and rollicking tune is a perfect fit for the flute. Maingart's display of triple tonguing was nothing short of stunning, aided by her emphatic stomp, and her jazzed up variation was beguiling indeed.

Camille Saint-Saens was one of the most prominent and influential composers of the nineteenth century. A formidable pianist in his own right, Saint-Saens is best known for his piano scores but he composed in virtually all instrumental and vocal genres. Principal cellist Jürg Eichenberger played two of his works. The famous melody of The Swan from Carnival of the Animals took wing through Eichenberger's warm tone and smooth musical line. Allegro Appassionato, Op. 43 is a cello showpiece in the vein of Saint-Saens' cello concerto. Eichenberger's clean, strongly emphatic playing captured both the fast, dare devil riffs and more romantic passages with depth and fervor. (The accompanying blend of flute and strings was mellifluous.) A professor at the University of Switzerland, Eichenberger is an artist of the highest order. The Mission Chamber Orchestra is very much part of Eichenberger's family. His wife and two daughters join him in the cello section while his son in law Alexandre Tigishvilli is in the violins.

La Bella Cubana by Afro-Cuban composer Jose White is a sensuous habanera melody. Concertmaster Forte presented his arrangement for two violins in duo with his wife Svetlana Forte.  Exquisitely blended, their lovely tones embraced the lively dance sections as well as the memorable principle theme with lush orchestral backing. Alexandre Tigishvilli was a veritable dynamo of the fiddle in Summer from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. His spot on intonation, suave phrasing and seamless flow between rapid and slow section immediately grabbed attention in the first movement. With the most silken tonal hues, Tigishvilli spun the melodic fragments of the slow movement in one long arc. The summer storm of the finale was fiery indeed. Playing at lightning speed, Tigishvilli's bow seemed to bounce of the strings. In an evening of intense performances. his wild ride through Vivaldi was nothing short of sensational. The audience's standing ovation was richly deserved.

As an encore, Brooks-Bruzzese and concertmaster Forte unfurled Cole Porter's evergreen Just One of Those Things. Starting in quasi-Baroque manner, Forte threw off jazzy riffs and slides with the agility of the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli.  A large and enthusiastic audience awarded the hard working artists repeated plaudits.

Summerfest 2014 continues with concerts by the Mission Chamber Orchestra of Rome on August 11 at the Doubletree by Hilton in Palm Beach Gardens, August 12 at Christ by the Sea, United Methodist Church in Vero Beach and August 15 at the Phillips Performing Arts Center, University of Florida in Gainesville. For information see www.sota,org or call 954-335-7002.

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