By Lawrence Budmen

The Florida Classical Orchestra is best known as the pit ensemble for the productions of Florida Grand Opera and Miami City Ballet. But the group took to the stage on Tuesday at the FAU Carole and Barry Kaye Performing Arts Auditorium for a program of Symphonic Dances.

How the ensemble will fare in major symphonic works remains to be seen. The musicians acquitted themselves more than credibly in lightweight scores from the operatic and ballet repertoire. Veteran pops conductor Richard Hayman was on the podium. Best known as arranger for the Boston Pops during the heyday of Arthur Fiedler, Hayman brought a springy, bouncy touch to these balletic vignettes. 

The first half of the concert proved most satisfying. An expressive cello solo by Iris Van Eck launched Weberís Invitation to the Dances. Some imprecise string playing detracted from an incisive performance. 

Felicitous renditions of two of Dvorakís Slavonic Dances revealed the ensemble at its best. There was zest galore in the Furiant of Dance No.8 while the elegiac romance of Dance No.2 glowed with honeyed string tone. 

Hayman turned up the firepower for an over the top version of Khachaturianís Sabre Dance. The same composerís Adagio from Spartacus proved more memorable. Robert Weinerís gorgeous oboe solo dripped with romantic languor, abetted by sleek strings and vociferous trumpets. 

A brilliant percussion section led the way in Ravelís Bolero. The ensemble managed this virtuoso orchestral showpiece with remarkable aplomb. 

In the second half of the evening, an overdose of ballet music from French opera needed greater stylistic variety. In the only non-Francophile offering, the orchestraís strings overcame a wrong entrance to offer a fiery, elegantly Italianate traversal of the Dance of the Hours from Ponchielliís La Gioconda. 

Ballet music from Gounodís Faust was the best of the French offerings. Haymanís robust beat and the perfumed grace of the wind playing carried the day. This charming music is rarely presented in staged productions of Gounodís most popular opera. 

The pseudo Latin rhythms of the ballet suite from Massenetís Le Cid were dispatched with verve and ťlan, the castanets clicking vigorously. 

A not very infernal Bacchanale from Saint-Saensí Samson and Delilah was vigorously played. 

As an encore, Hayman presented a Vienesse operetta medley featuring a scintillating version of Vienna, City of My Dreams. Concertmaster Scott Flavin offered a schmaltzy violin solo in Waltz of My Dreams from Oscar Strausí unjustly neglected Waltz Dream. 

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