BERGONZI STRING QUARTET/ MIAMI SAXOPHONE QUARTET
By Lawrence Budmen
One of Festival Miamiís most valuable artistic contributions has been its ongoing dedication to contemporary music. On October 9 the combined forces of the Bergonzi String Quartet and the Miami Saxophone Quartet continued that tradition with the premiere of Jazz Suite by Gary Lindsay at the University of Miamiís Gusman Concert Hall.
Judging by the enthusiastic applause, many audience members felt that Lindsayís innovative attempt at jazz-classical chamber music fusion was a success. The opening movement suggested a harmonious melding of genres. Lindsay, a Frost School of Music faculty member, fashioned an engaging salon tango with jazz riffs from the saxophone foursome. Violinist Glenn Basham contributed a virtuosic, Grappelli tinged solo. Gary Kellerís brilliant soprano saxophone turn explored the extremes of the instrumentís range.
The suiteís two remaining movements were less persuasive. Often the score sounded like big band charts with amplified strings as window dressing. This ambitious crossover work tended to stifle improvisation, one of the glories of jazz. Indeed Keller, Lindsay, Ed Calle, and Mike Brignola are such versatile musicians that one wanted to hear them really jam. Brignolaís burning solo turn on baritone sax suggested what was missing. The eight players gave a vibrant performance.
The Bergonzi foursome (Basham and Scott Flavin, violins; Pamela McConnell, viola; and Ross Harbaugh, cello) opened the program with an intimately scaled reading of Alexander Borodinís Quartet in D Major. Finely gauged ensemble playing enhanced the groupís classically charged approach to the outer movements. The Scherzo overflowed with dashing energy. Harbaughís warmly sonorous cello soared in the famous Andante, taken at a slightly faster tempo that enhanced the flowing melodic line. Borodinís beguiling blend of Russian nationalism and Beethovenesque classicism was rendered with polish and ťlan that avoided exaggeration.
Flavin contributed three imaginative transcriptions. Rhine Legend from Mahlerís Wunderhorn songs was charming Vienesse cafť music, played with considerable pizzazz. Flavin turned Cole Porterís What is This Thing Called Love into a sophisticated, bluesy pastry. His transcription of Schubert powerful lied Erlkonig became a string showpiece with almost orchestral resonance. An elegant and stylish violinist, Flavin is also a terrific, highly creative arranger.