Applause nice but the boos were better at Boca
By David Fleshler
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
January 31, 2007
BOCA RATON —It's a rare conductor who actually invites the audience to boo. So give Edwin Outwater credit for a stylish entrance at the opening of a concert Sunday by the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia.
As he introduced Men and Mountains by Carl Ruggles -- a craggy New Englander whose dissonant, contrapuntal music reflected his personality -- Outwater said, "Don't just respond with the usual polite applause. If you feel like it, go ahead and boo. I think Ruggles would have liked that very much."
Outwater, resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, then turned and led the orchestra through a powerful, eerie performance, although there were some glitches in the horns.
The audience responded with polite applause, and when Outwater cupped a hand to his ear, a few polite boos.
The 35-member Boca ensemble, now in its second season, performed to a sold-out crowd at St. Andrews School in Boca Raton. After the Ruggles, the orchestra was joined by the pianist Polina Osetinskaya for the Grieg Piano Concerto.
While some pianists take Grieg's warhorse as an invitation to bang on the keyboard, she brought fire to the music without losing its lyricism. The work's technical demands appeared to present little trouble, allowing her to focus on expressing the melodic and singing qualities of the rapid passage work.
But while the orchestra has excelled in smaller-scale works such as Mozart symphonies, it was just too small for a big romantic work like the Grieg concerto. The violins, in particular, sounded thin when they rushed in for tuttis intended to sound powerful.
The orchestra's size is not an impediment to playing many works usually performed by a full-sized symphony orchestra. It could even be an asset, and the ensemble's upcoming performance of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony should be an interesting take on a work normally played today by forces larger than Beethoven ever imagined.
During the second half, the orchestra presented Brahms' youthful Serenade No. 1. Although there was some scrappy playing in violins, brass and winds, the orchestra came together for a finely wrought, exquisitely balanced slow movement that gave hints of where the young Brahms was heading as a composer.
The Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia next performs on Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m. at the St. Andrews School, with works by Mozart, Shostakovich and Beethoven.
David Fleshler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4535.
© 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel.