By Lawrence Budmen

The symphonies of the Austrian mystic Anton Bruckner are vast cathedrals in sound. Large, sonorous concert halls are the ideal performance spaces for these scores so the bright acoustics and intimate ambience of Miami Beach’s Lincoln Theater would hardly seem appropriate.But Manfred Honeck led the New World Symphony on Saturday in a performance of the Symphony No.7 in E Major that was nothing short of magical. 

While many large scale works overwhelm the Lincoln’s acoustics, Honeck’s carefully gauged dynamics covered the full range from the softest pianissimos to thunderous orchestral exclamations without ever sounding strident or overpowering. 

Like former Cincinnati Symphony conductor Michael Gielen and the late German podium icon Gunter Wand, Honeck eschews celebrity in favor of purposeful, scholarly music making. His dedication to the musical text resulted in a freshly minted traversal of Bruckner’s sound world in which many inner voicings had new found clarity and presence. 

Under Honeck’s inspired direction, the symphony unfolded in one long, unbroken musical arc in which passion and reverence, flowing lyricism and fiery perorations were given equal weight. The conductor’s crisp tempos sustained momentum from the mysterious string tremolos that open the symphony to the stirring brass chorale one hour later. 

Honeck vividly conveyed the spiritual ecstasy of the mournful Adagio. Luminous strings and mellow horns produced a warm, glowing aural palette. In the Scherzo, Honeck achieved the perfect synthesis of insistent rhythmic impetus and Vienesse lilt in the manner of Claudio Abbado. 

The New World brass exhibited the tonal richness and heft of legendary Dresden ensembles during the dramatic finale. In the symphony’s final moments, as lush strings arched ever higher, the music soared into incandescence. Bruckner’s paean to the glory of God was richly served. 

The first half of the program was less impressive. The Scaorribanda Sinfonica sopra la tomba di una Maratona (2000) by Hans Werner Henze is the work of an elderly composer revisiting a ballet score from nearly half a century earlier. The piece (a minor footnote in Henze’s prolific output) is replete with derivative echoes of Stravinsky. The concert opened with an imprecise performance of the Overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni. 

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