By Lawrence Budmen

The final concert of the initial season of the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia (on March 12, 2006 at the Florida Atlantic University Theater in Boca Raton, Florida, USA) was a real charmer. The 250th anniversary of Mozartís birth was celebrated in grand style with a high spirited overture and the last of the master from Salzburgís 27 piano concertos. Two symphonies by 20th century composers provided a bracing contrast. 

While best known for his Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff performances, Ilya Itin was a superbly musical, technically agile soloist in Mozartís Piano Concerto No.27 in B-flat Major, K.595. Itinís exquisitely sculpted phrasing and pearly tone in the central Larghetto movement produced moments of near sublimity. Here was music making of the most grandly elevated variety. Conductor Mischa Santora (Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra and Music Director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra) expertly pinpointed the noble dialogue between piano and woodwinds. Boca Symphoniaís wind section played with precision, clarity, and subtle expressivity. The sweet toned flute of Christine Nield effortlessly blended with Itinís finely chiseled pianism. The opening Allegro was lithe and spirited. Itinís brilliant cadenza had commanding line and sweep. In the quirky Finale, Itin and Santora captured the wit and sparkle of Mozartís indelible creation with ťlan. Soloist and conductor seemed to be creating the music as they played Ė a truly inspired performance!

Santora opened the concert with a vigorous, characterful traversal of the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro. The Boca Symphony musicians played with lithe, precise ensemble. Oboist Erika Yamadaís solo was elegantly stated. This was vigorous, no nonsense Mozart of the period instrument school.

Charles Ivesís Symphony No.3 (The Camp Meeting) belongs to that revolutionary composerís Americana phase. Protestant hymn tunes (familiar to the composer from his childhood in Danbury, Connecticut) weave through the musicís layered textures. Modal harmonies suddenly turn into bold dissonance. Santora led Kenneth Singletonís authoritative edition for the Ives Society which is surprisingly bracing and astringent. Earlier editions by Henry Cowell and Lou Harrison toned down the scoreís modernity in favor of folksy nationalism. It was a revelation to hear Ivesís boldly original creation in its pristine form. (Among the leaders of the Ives Societyís yeoman musicological work are conductors James Sinclair and Michael Tilson Thomas). Santora led an intense, driving performance with strong instrumental colors and differentiation. Concertmaster Huigang Chen, violist Michael Klotz, and cellist Susan Moyer shone brightly in solo turns. The symphonyís finale (based on the hymn Just As I Am) is eloquent and moving. This performance was a landmark for the recently formed orchestra. 

Prokofievís engaging Symphony No.1 in D Major was a delightful conclusion to the concert. The composerís wry, modern day Mozart symphony was played with energy and style. Santoraís taut pacing and the ensembleís instrumental clarity were an utter delight. Strong, emphatic accents marked the outer movements while the Larghetto had warmth, shining lyricism, and silky string textures. There was charm aplenty in the quirky Gavotte with clarinetist Richard Hancock playing with scintillating tone in his solo. Principal flutist Christine Nield was virtuosic in the rapid fire roulades of the Molto vivace finale.

With its intelligent programming, excellent conductors and solo artists, and strong musical values, the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia has offered a splendid first season and a harbinger of great things to come!

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