Concert Review: Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia
By Sharon McDaniel
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
BOCA RATON — How time flies. It's already opening day for the young Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia, now a strong 2-year-old toddler. Even before the music sounded Sunday afternoon, a pre-Thanksgiving uplift pervaded the hall. Just the assembly of so many of familiar South Florida musicians on stage was a reassuring sight.
The presiding personality was also a long-term friend, Albert-George Schram as guest conductor on the classical subscription series. With the national anthem, Schram launched the Symphonia into Rossini, William Bolcom, Mozart and Tchaikovsky and into its new "home."
The Symphonia has adopted a year-old Boca hall of rare qualifications: good looks, good sound and comfort. And most of the 650 seats were filled in Roberts Theater at Saint Andrew's School.
The hall was a great asset to 35-member orchestra in Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C, but primarily in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor with piano soloist Adam Neiman. The 26-year-old American also expressed rare qualities, including one of the warmest, most supple singing lines I've heard in a while. With a beautifully controlled tone to match, Neiman added sheen to the often-solemn first-movement melodies.
There's more to appreciate about Neiman's musicianship. He plays with mapmaker clarity: The direction and shape of each musical "sentence" is laid out in breathtaking perspective. Along with clarity comes richness, a delicate balance of proportions, and nuances that flow — now that's a burger made to order.
Only a memory slip in the first movement smudged otherwise remarkably polished playing. Neiman managed a touch mission: putting his own stamp on a famous classic, at the tail end of Mozart's 250th anniversary year. A Juilliard School graduate with two CDs, the pianist draws you deep into his realm for the slow second movement. In his inventive ideas and nuances, new aspects of the slow second movement surfaced — also exposing more to love about the new theater's sensitivity.
Neiman's only real extravagance was composing his own cadenzas. He played two original solos that he wrote for the Mozart's outer movements. Both were rich, appealing and dramatic, making good use Mozart's themes. The last one jostled the mood a bit too much with a sudden shape-shift, but Neiman's cadenzas are well worth hearing again.
For an orchestra of 35 players, the Mozart was the perfect fit. Even more revealing were the Rossini Barber of Seville overture and, for its contemporary American salute, William Bolcom's Commedia for (Almost) 19th Century Orchestra.
The Bolcom refuses to take itself too seriously. It flirts extravagantly with 18th-century chamber music. Yet it remains married for life to 20th-century dissonance and special effects, including lots of ad lib time for the orchestra.
Central themes mutate, often in outrageous ways, throwing amusing solos to piccolo as well as piano, viola and clarinet, even tympani and cymbal, which strong-arm their way to fore.
Rossini's busybody Barber clipped along happily, if not quite as mischievously as possible. But another familiar classic, Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, brought out the group's best, especially the strong viola and cello sections. Players poured it on, digging deep for rich, warm, weighted chords.
There was the odd ensemble mishap, but every reason to expect another imaginatively programmed season with top-notch guests and memorable performances.
The next Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia subscription concert is at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 17, a program of Elgar, Piazzolla and Mozart. It's in Roberts Theater, Saint Andrew's School, Boca Raton. Call (888) 426-5577 or (561) 376-3848.
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