By Lawrence Budmen

Miami’s 2005-2006 music season can be viewed as the calm before the celebration and fireworks. Many South Florida musical organizations are marking time with light weight schedules prior to the opening of the Dade Performing Arts Center in the fall of 2006. Here are some of the highlights of a somewhat subdued but varied season of concerts. (Further information about many of these events is available through 

FESTIVAL MIAMI – The 22nd edition of the University Of Miami Frost School Of Music’s multicultural extravaganza opened on September 24 at UM Gusman Concert Hall with soprano Helen Donath (a veteran of the world’s great opera houses from the Met and Vienna to La Scala and Covent Garden) singing operatic arias and music from Vienesse operettas and Broadway musicals with Thomas Sleeper conducting the University of Miami Symphony Orchestra. Pianist Paul Posnak joins members of Russia’s great St. Petersburg Philharmonic for the Florida premieres of scores by Aaron Copland, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Davidov. Chamber music by Mozart, Shostakovich, and Brahms takes center stage when the Emerson String Quartet collaborates with cellist Andres Diaz and violist Roberto Diaz , the new President of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music ( in October). UM’s Bergonzi Quartet is joined by cellist Laura Jean Deming for Schubert’s Quintet. Violinist Leila Josefowicz (who set off sparks last season with the New World Symphony) gives an intriguing solo recital (with pianist John Novacek) of works by Beethoven, Ravel, Olivier Messiaen, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Esa-Pekka Salonen. Choral conductors Jo-Michael Scheibe, Donald Oglesby, and Timothy Sharp team up for the East Coast premiere of David Maslanka’s Mass (with the UM Wind Ensemble under Gary Green). Janice Chandler-Eteme (who gave a superb recital for Sunday Afternoons of Music last season) is the soprano soloist. Veteran UM conductor Sleeper takes the podium 9 for a closing night celebration of Americana featuring the world premiere of Sinfonia No.2 by the iconoclast Roberto Sierra and the Marcus Roberts Jazz Trio in a new version of Gershwin’s Concerto in F (October 29). Following Festival Miami, UM will present a recital by the legendary pianist and teacher Russell Sherman (November 9). 

NEW WORLD SYMPHONY – America’s only full time orchestral academy offers a season of interesting concerts. NWS Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas opens the season on October 15 with an all Beethoven program. Tilson Thomas directs an American Voices mini-festival (January 7-12) featuring angelic voiced soprano Barbara Bonney in the conductor’s own settings of Poems of Emily Dickinson and violin superstar Gil Shaham playing the rarely heard Violin Concerto of William Schuman. Tilson Thomas has also scheduled a traversal of Dimitri Shostakovich’s massive Leningrad Symphony (in December) and continues the orchestra’s multi-year exploration of Vienesse Musical Traditions (in March) with the formidable mezzo-soprano Loraine Hunt Lieberson as soloist in Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder. Marin Alsop, one of the music world’s rising stars, highlights the season’s guest conducting roster with music by Christopher Rouse and Brahms in April). (Alsop worked musical magic in her recent debut with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood.) British Baroque specialist Robert King collaborates with Miami’s professional chamber choir Seraphic Fire (November). Young violin firebrand Robert McDuffie joins veteran conductor Lawrence Foster (March) for a tribute to The Gypsy Violin via Liszt, Miklos Rozsa, and Bartok. Canadian classicist Bernard Labadie pays tribute to the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth (January). Other guest maestros include Stephane Deneve (in a Gallic program of scores by Ravel, Poulenc, and Berlioz), Roberto Abbado, Oliver Knussen, and contemporary music specialist Reinbert de Leeuw (in a rare performance of Messiaen’s magnum opus From the Canyon to the Stars). 

CONCERT ASSOCIATION – While this season’s schedule of visiting artists and ensembles is less dazzling than in former years, there are some distinguished offerings. First and foremost one of the worlds’s most honored musicians and humanists Daniel Barenboim plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23 in A Major on February 6 (at Miami Beach’s Jackie Gleason Theater) with the Berlin Staatskapelle. Podium firebrand Charles Dutoit returns with England’s stellar Royal Philharmonic (January) in a concert of works by Sibelius, Mozart, and Brahms. Tchaikovsky Competition Winner Barry Douglas will append Benjamin Britten’s cadenzas to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.22 in E-flat Major. Paul Hindemith’s Noblissima Visione and Aaron Copland’s Statements are featured on a program by the Jerusalem Symphony under the baton of Bard College President Leon Botstein (February). Russian maestro Valery Gergiev leads the Rotterdam Philharmonic in music by Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich (with piano virtuoso Vladimir Feltsman) in April. Other featured artists include pianist-conductor Philippe Entremont with the Munich Symphony, baritone superstar Dimitri Hvorostovsky, the Russian National Orchestra, pianist Yefim Bronfman, and duo-pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque. 

The Concert Association’s schedule at Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center is much splashier. Operatic superstar Renee Fleming opens the festivities with a recital on January 17, 2006.Other highlights include violinist-conductor Gil Shaham with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in a Mozart-Tchaikovsky program (February) and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach with piano virtuoso Tzimon Barto in music by Beethoven and Liszt (March). The series also features recitals by violinist Joshua Bell and piano dynamos Emanuel Ax and Lang Lang and the Cleveland Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy. 

SUNDAY AFTERNOONS OF MUSIC – This stellar recital series marks a quarter century of memorable music offerings. The official 25th Anniversary Celebration on April 2 (at UM Gusman Hall) marks the return of Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian – one of the most exciting artists on the world’s opera stages today. The series opens with Russian-Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman (in October) playing Tartini, Brahms, Shostakovich, and Bloch. Pianist Jeffrey Biegel, a great local favorite, brings his complete version of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (with previously omitted material restored) amid a varied program in November. Cello virtuoso Matt Haimovitz makes a rare recital appearance (December) and other featured artists include Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Winner Olga Kern, violinist Peter Zazofsky, and the Miami String Quartet. In May the clarion sounds of the Empire Brass provide a light up the stars finale. 

BOCA RATON PHILHARMONIC SYMPHONIA – The birth of a new orchestra is cause for celebration. On November 27 the new Boca Raton ensemble will launch its inaugural concert series at the Florida Atlantic University Theater. Conductor Martin Fischer-Dieskau leads a bracing program of works by Cherubini (the Overture to Medea), Antal Dorati (American Serenade), and Beethoven (the Eroica Symphony) and the world premiere of Stuart Glazer’s Concertino for Small Orchestra. (Each program features a work by an American composer.) The series continues on December 18 with Seattle Symphony Resident Conductor Alastair Willis directing scores by Beethoven (Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus), Stravinsky (Suite from Pulcinella), and Pulitzer Prize Winner Aaron Jay Kernis (Musica Celestis). Mei-Ting Sun, the impressive First Prize Winner of the National Chopin Piano Competition, does the solo honors in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3. On January 8, 2006 Giancarlo Guerrero, Music Director of the Eugene (Oregon) Symphony, takes the podium to conduct Mozart’s Haffner Symphony (commencing the orchestra’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth), Aaron Copland’s Three Latin American Sketches, Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, Opus 110 (arranged by Rudolf Barshai), and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1 with Shunsuke Sato, a rising star, as soloist. Alexander Platt, Music Advisor and Principal Conductor of Chicago Opera Theater, conducts the ensemble on February 12 in Haydn’s Symphony No.86 (Paris), George Walker’s plaintive Lyric for Strings, and Mozart’s Symphony No.31 (Paris). Pianist William Wolfram is soloist in Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.1 – in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The season concludes on March 12 with Leeds International Piano Competition winner Ilya Itin, a commanding virtuoso, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.27. Mischa Santora, Music Director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, directs Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, Charles Ives’s strongly Americana Symphony No.3 (Camp Meeting), and Prokofiev’s Symphony No.1 (Classical).

FRIENDS OF CHAMBER MUSIC – Bravura pianist Vladimir Feltsman plays a solo recital on December 12 for this intimate chamber series at UM Gusman Hall. The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio - the premier piano-violin-cello trio today - appears in February. (The trio really soared this past summer at Tanglewood.) March brings violinist Miriam Fried with the gifted young Musicians from Ravinia’s Stearns Institute and the superb Fine Arts Quartet pays a return visit in April with rising clarinet star Alexander Fiterstein. 

MIAMI INTERNATIONAL PIANO FESTIVAL – This celebration of the keyboard has often featured electrifying concerts and this season’s edition promises more excitement. Thirteen year old genius Kit Armstrong concertizes on November 28 at the Amaturo Theater in Fort Lauderdale. The intimate Broward Center theater welcomes Croatian virtuoso Kemal Gekic on March 27. A concerto evening on March 28 features Si Jin-Yi (a 13 year old prodigy from China) playing Chopin’s Concerto No.1 and 17 year old Ukrainian violin firebrand Valery Sokolov playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with William Noll, former Associate Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony, on the podium. On May 11 (at Miami Beach’s Lincoln Theater) Israeli virtuoso Boris Giltburg, winner of the Santander Competition, makes a return recital appearance. Debut performances by Argentinean pianist Ingrid Fliter, winner of Warsaw’s Chopin Competition and Ukrainian violinist Valery Sokolov and pianist Svetlana Kosenko also take center stage. The Miami International Piano Festival Orchestra under veteran conductor William Noll concludes the Festival on May 14 with Beethoven’s Concertos featuring Giltburg (Concerto No.3) and Fliter (Concerto No.5 – “Emperor”) doing the solo honors. 

MIAMI BACH SOCIETY – Miami’s premier Baroque organization expands its horizon when the Tropical Baroque Music Festival VII (March 6-19 at various Coral Gables venues) embraces both the Old and New Worlds. Viola da Gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall and his Hesperian XXI ensemble pay tribute to Old World Baroque. An international conference on Baroque music of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries in Latin America heralds a feast of period instrument artists and ensembles performing music of the New World - Florilegium (England), recorder master Horatio Franco (Mexico), Concerto Soave (France), Ana-Cristina Kier (Argentina), Millenium (Guatemala), El Mundo (USA), Capila Del Sol (Argentina), Fuoco e Cenere (Paris), and Elyma (Switzerland). There will be a pre-festival concert series in Coconut Grove, Miami Beach, and Coral Gables featuring Camerata Koln, harpsichordist Jori Vinikour, lute virtuoso Hopkinson Smith, and the Canadian string ensemble Les Boreads. The Miami Bach Society’s most ambitious season concludes in April as MBS stalwart Donald Oglesby conducts the UM Collegium Musicum and MBS Chamber Orchestra in a tribute to the greatest master of all – J.S. Bach.

SERAPHIC FIRE – Miami’s outstanding professional chamber choir becomes Ensemble In Residence at First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables. On October 7 conductor Patrick Dupre Quigley leads one of the monumental works of liturgical music – the Vespers of 1610 by the father of opera Claudio Monteverdi. Other programs will be devoted to the music of Christmas (December) Sephardic Fire – The Legacy of Jewish Sacred Music (March), and J.S. Bach’s 6 Motets in the composer’s original version with 8 singers performing one voice per part (May). 

MASTER CHORALE – The formidable Jo-Michael Scheibe leads Ralph Vaughn Williams’s powerful Dona Nobis Pacem (a powerful setting of Walt Whitman’s war poems) in November at Trinity Cathedral. Scheibe honors the Mozart year with a new edition of the master’s unfinished Mass in C Minor (April).

The Murray Dranoff International Two Piano Competition (the only event of its kind) will take place December 15-22 in Coral Gables and Miami Beach. For piano aficionados this will be a boffo season.

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