By Lawrence Budmen 

In just two seasons the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia has become an invaluable asset to South Florida’s cultural community. Comprised of former Florida Philharmonic members and some of the area’s best freelance players, the ensemble is a bona fide chamber orchestra of increasingly solid artistic excellence. The group gave its best concert to date on February 18 at the Roberts Theater at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton when Boston based conductor Scott Yoo mounted the podium for a program of seminal classics.

Earlier this season Yoo conducted Miami’s New World Symphony in a superb concert of scores by Stravinsky and Dvorak. He proved no less electric with the Boca ensemble. Yoo is a no nonsense technician who achieves beautiful balanced, lustrous playing from the ensemble at hand. The Boca Symphonia has never sounded so supple. The suave, beautiful core of tonal resonance Yoo produced was a high water mark for this young organization.

Yoo commenced the afternoon with a crisp performance of the Overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The opening Masonic chords were clearly articulated. With the Amernet String Quartet’s Misha Vitenson in the concertmaster’s seat, the brilliant string section enlivened Mozart’s rapid fugal writing. 

The orchestral writing in Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1 in E-flat Major bristled with harmonic astringency under Yoo’s lively direction. He astutely highlighted the composer’s colorful wind writing. Cellist Bion Tsang, a frequent artistic collaborator with Yoo, demonstrated agile command and an introspective approach to this 1959 showpiece, originally written for Mistislav Rostropovich. Tsang deeply communicated the brooding intensity of the Moderato movement. Even in this bravura display piece, Shostakovich’s angst comes through powerfully. Tsang rendered the elongated Cadenza with impressive technical acumen and an almost improvisatory sense of musical flow. Gregory Miller brought rounded sonority to the crucial French horn part.

Beethoven’s bucolic Symphony No.6 in F Major (Pastoral) received the zippy David Zinman treatment from Yoo and the Boca players. The taut tempo and phrasing of the opening movement was frequently bracing, marred only by an exposed fluff from the flute at the movement’s conclusion. Supple violins and cellos captured the flow of the brook in the Andante molto mosso. Yoo’s brisk, exhilarating pace turned the third movement into a dance of merry peasantry indeed. The transition from the storm music to the final hymn of thanksgiving was beautifully achieved. That eloquent finale was lyrically charged, the surging momentum bringing grandeur to this more intimate side of Beethoven.

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