Boca Symphonia opens with Mendelssohn and a violinistís impressive debut
November 9, 2009
By Alan Becker
South Florida Classical Review
BOCA RATON -- Imagine Beethovenís Ninth Symphony shorn of its great choral finale and ending after the three orchestral movements. To an extent, thatís similar to what was presented by the Boca Raton Symphonia at its season-opening concert with Mendelssohnís Symphony No. 2.
With the choral Lobgesang, or Hymn of Praise sections excised from the symphony Sunday afternoon at the Roberts Theater, we are left with some 24 minutes of orchestral music closing with an inconclusive slow movement. Although most concertgoers would not know what went missing, the cantata part of the work would have been a costly endeavor for the orchestra (as well as once-in-a-lifetime experience for most audience members).
Be that as it may, what we did get was very well performed. Conductor Alexander Platt is too fine a musician to leave us with a bleeding torso, so following the Adagio religioso he segued directly into Mendelssohnís Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage overture as a substitute finale. It was a creative idea and gave the audience the opportunity to hear some infrequently performed music from the composerís pen. More important, Platt pushed the music forward with a thrust of excitement and the orchestra, with added trombones, played their hearts out.
Irving Fine (1914-1962) rarely figures on programs these days. His life was short, and his output small, but his Notturno for Strings and Harp is well worth the encounter. Its three movements have a gentle lyricism tinged with the sinew of twentieth-century Neo-classicism. Stravinskyís Orpheus came to mind, along with some of the music by Fineís colleagues of the so-called Boston School. This is certainly no display piece for harp, as the writing is generally chaste and, like the strings, avoids all virtuosic gestures. It has proved to be the composerís most popular piece and was performed with sympathy, with the strings providing a luminous sheen to their sound.
Bruchís Violin Concerto No.1 is in the repertory of all major violinists. Itís a beautiful piece, rich with melody and dramatic tension. The young Hungarian-American violinist Erno Kallai is completing his studies at Juilliard with Itzhak Perlman, who recommended him for this Boca debut.
Playing an 1864 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin, his gorgeous tone reminded me of the young Perlman, his technique was flawless, and his manner fully assured and professional. The melting Adagio was as heartbreakingly lovely as any heard in years of concert-going, and the finale came up as fresh as if heard for the first time. Platt led his orchestra with enthusiasm and great care so as to meld perfectly in interpretive unity. This will be the music directorís final season with the orchestra and he will be greatly missed.