Boca Symphonia's new maestro aims to build a sustainable orchestra
By Jack Zink
February 9, 2008
Alexander Platt jocularly describes himself as a vagabond, and compares himself to an interim pastor or perhaps an itinerant minister. The latest addition to his key chain is the post of principal conductor of the Boca Symphonia chamber orchestra, which has in its third season established itself as the region's most promising post-Florida Philharmonic musical ensemble.
Platt will conduct the Symphonia's midseason concert Sunday at the Roberts Theatre in west Boca Raton, following a whirlwind week of meetings, rehearsals, meet-and-greets and interviews as he settles in for what he perceives as an appealing challenge.
"This is a unique situation, classical music in South Florida," he says, eight months after his appointment. "You couldn't make this up, from Palm Beach to Miami, you have 100 chiefs and no Indians since the demise of the Philharmonic. The challenge is, how to make sense out of this, and make sense for the Boca Symphonia and the greater Boca community."
If that seems a little blunt for culture speak, it's because Platt doesn't want misunderstandings to fog an important building effort among South Florida's developing musical initiatives. In another comparison, he describes himself as being more like John McCain than Mitt Romney.
"I think you need to be polite but honest, because the stakes are too high," he says. "People here have to come to grips; do you want your own orchestra or don't you? I'm here not to speak as much as [to] listen, and see from all the constituents what you want and how you want to do it.
"I'm here to give some insights based on my career, and then also just to make the Boca Symphonia the best that it can be."
That means growing just enough so that the organization remains sustainable, a high-quality chamber orchestra with unique repertoire in a modestly scaled season. The Symphonia utilized guest conductors as well as guest soloists for its first two seasons.
Platt was among the first year's lineup, and also led the Symphonia in its showcase with Arturo Sandoval at the inaugural Festival of the Arts/Boca last March. On short notice, he wound up conducting the festival's concert with flutist James Galway as well.
"It was an insane concert, a ton of music, an incredibly limited rehearsal time," he remembers of getting the panicked request on Saturday morning in Marion, Ind. (where he's music director of the Marion Philharmonic), driving home to Chicago and arriving in Boca Monday morning for the Tuesday event. "But it was magic, love at first sight."
That, topping off the positive guest appearance the year before, led to a quick round of negotiations and an announcement within a few months. In addition to his posts in Boca Raton and Marion, the 42-year-old Platt is music director of Wisconsin's Waukeshon Symphony, resident conductor of the Chicago Opera Theatre and music director of the summer Maverick Concerts in Woodstock, N.Y.
On another burner, he is a candidate for a similar position in Flagstaff, Ariz. All that, and he continues to maintain a schedule of guest appearances. The maestro says that the Boca Raton appointment allows him to do things he can't in other communities, and is bullish on the orchestra board's willingness to try different musical ideas. He will conduct all the concerts on the just-announced 2008-09 season, an eclectic mix of programs that push the envelope of the typical chamber orchestra repertoire.
"The Boca Symphonia needs to exist because there are people here who want to hear a unique musical product, good music," he says. "We need to find those people, and those people need to come hear us and support us. That's my job for the immediate future."
© 2008, South Florida Sun Sentinel.
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