By Lawrence Budmen

A remarkable amount of creative talent resides in South Florida. Composers whose work has been performed around the globe reside and conceive new scores here. On March 11 the Mostly Music Concerts at Zinman Hall in the Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center in Boca Raton presented works by four of those creative artists. The scores presented were a remarkable cornucopia of diverse styles and musical aesthetics. Each of the four pieces was well crafted and provided a snapshot of a larger cultural landscape.

Sonata for Violin and Piano by Stuart Glazer, a Professor of Composition at Florida Atlantic University, was an appealing mix of minimalism and jazzy insouciance – John Adams meets Stephane Grappelli. Lively syncopated rhythms in the outer movements are offset by a powerfully emotive Adagio, a strikingly bluesy arioso. 

Violinist Rebecca Lautar (a member of the FAU faculty who gave the premiere of this score) was an agile protagonist. She lacked a large, sonorous tone but that may have been due to the less than ingratiating acoustics of Zinman Hall. Pianist Edward Turgeon (of the Duo Turgeon) was outstanding, playing widely spaced octaves at the far ends of the keyboard.

Donald Waxman’s five movement Suite for Flute, Oboe, and Cello was marked by splendid wind writing and an engaging Latin tinged patina. The unconventional instrumental combination proved winning. Spicy harmonies abounded in an engagingly accessible, intimate work. The multiple slow movements were ingenuously conceived – particularly a Serenade with the oboe playing the melody, the cello acting as a strumming guitar. At the score’s climax, Waxman quotes a Bach chorale, changing the key from minor to major. The combination of instrumental harmonies and the nobility of J.S. Bach made for an eloquent, bracing conclusion to an admirable score. 

Flutist David Suarez was exceptional in every way – pure of tone, rich of expressivity, and flexible in Waxman’s wind roulades. Terence Kirchgessner was the musically adroit, capable oboist. Claudio Jaffe displayed agile musicality in the score’s darting cello line. 

The afternoon’s real sleeper was the Sonata for Saxophone and Piano by Marshall Turkin. Turkin, a veteran orchestral administrator and founder of the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia, is producer and host of the Mostly Music Concerts. Composed fifty years ago and first performed at the renowned Interlochen (Michigan) Institute, Turkin’s sonata explores and expands the virtuosic capacities of the instrument. (It is worth remembering that a solo classical score for saxophone was a rarity half a century ago.) The work’s heart and soul is the plaintive Adagio – a haunting atonal blues. The Allegro con spirito finale brings the sonata to a zesty, stylish conclusion with a definite jazz bent. Turkin was clearly a very gifted composer. Playing the ultra-demanding saxophone part, the University Of Miami Frost School Of Music’s Gary Keller was a master of the instrument, playing with fearless dexterity and gorgeous tonal coloration. Chien-wei Wang was the wonderfully eloquent pianist.

The program concluded with a Piano Trio by the renowned bassoonist, conductor, educator, and contemporary music specialist Arthur Weisberg, now a faculty member at the Indiana University School of Music. This splendidly crafted work was musically astringent, challenging in complexity and concision, and vibrantly exciting. In the all important solo piano line, Tao Lin combined vitality and eloquence in equal measure. The superb musicianship of violinist Huifang Chen and cellist Jaffe guaranteed a riveting performance. 

Four musically varied works by a diverse group of composers and the distinguished musicianship of some of South Florida’s best freelance players produced an absorbing, stimulating program – a vivid reminder that creativity still burns bright.

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