By Lawrence Budmen

The sound of castanets and flamenco was in the air Saturday night at the Lincoln Theater when the New World Symphony presented a program of Latin tinged works by Ginastera, Ravel, and De Falla. The Venezuelan born conductor Carlos Kalmar, recently appointed Music Director of the Oregon Symphony, elicited fiery, colorful performances in an impressive South Florida debut. 

Alberto Ginastera's Variations Concertantes proved an entrancing curtain raiser. This bristling score fuses Stravinsky with the rhythms of the Pampas. Solo opportunities abound in this intricate work. Marilyn De Olivera's richly sonorous cello solo set the tone for a virtuosic performance. Ebonee Thomas tossed off the rapid fire flute roulades of the Jocose variation with verve and pizzazz. Dacy Gillespie played an elongated melody on the double bass with acute musicality. Kalmar commanded both rhythmic thrust and expressive subtly from the excellent ensemble in this worthy revival of a work by one of Latin America's most important composers.

In Ravel's "Rhapsodie Espagnole" gossamer strings evoked the ethereal sounds of the night in the work's mesmeric prelude. Carlos Montoya's dazzling trumpet solo sparked the sultry Habanera while Kalmar whipped up an invigorating orchestral frenzy in the climactic Feria. Kalmar and the New World players reveled in Ravel's sensuous instrumental colors.

Kalmar concluded the program with the complete score for Manuel De Falla's 1919 ballet "The Three Cornered Hat." In this bustling work De Falla distilled Spanish folkloric elements through the misty lens of French Impressionism. The lush New World strings played with stunning precision. The bright, spirited wind playing had style and character. In music that is frequently played in a loud, blunt manner, Kalmar brought a full range of dynamics and remarkable clarity to even the minutest instrumental nuance. This conductor is a master of tonal painting. The evocative color and languor of the Seguidillas were delicately etched. Incisive strings and pungent brass brought intense drama to the Miller's Dance. Stephanie Novacek's dusky mezzo-soprano was impassioned and lustrous in the score's flamenco cantos. With Kalmar's gradually accelerating tempo and the fierce brilliance of the orchestra's performance, the exciting finale generated tremendous heat on a cool Miami night. 

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