PAULA ROBISON (12-17-06)

By Lawrence Budmen

Michael Tilson Thomasís forays into musical composition have yielded mixed results. But his Notturno for Flute, Harp, and String Quintet was a winning concert etude at the New World Symphonyís chamber music concert on Sunday at Miami Beachí s Lincoln Theater. Written for the formidable flutist Paula Robison, Notturno is a tribute to the Italian operatic tradition, cast in the form of a two-part ďariaĒ with a slow section and a cabaletta.

The piece opens with a hazy Impressionistic recitative featuring strong echoes of Debussy and Ravel; Neo-Baroque melody soars through the musical mist, reminiscent of Handelian opera. In the final section, the flute essays a lilting theme to rollicking plucked string accompaniment that intentionally recalls the Sextet from Donizettiís Lucia di Lammermoor. A series of brilliant variations concludes the work with pizzazz. Notturno proves Tilson Thomas an inspired melodist and his high flying flute pyrotechnics and suave string writing are beguiling. A quotation of Funiculi, Funicula in acerbic harmonics adds a witty touch. 

The glistening purity of Robisonís tone delighted the ear; her rapid fire flute acrobatics complemented by harpist Marguerite Lynn Williamsís elegant glissandos. Violinists Cecilia Weinkauff and Hannah Cho, violist Andrew Wickesberg, cellist Naomi Gray, and bassist Jory Herman offered stellar accompaniment, by turns misty and astringent. Tilson Thomas was present to acknowledge the cheers of the enthusiastic audience. 

Robison also offered her own transcriptions of Three Italian Serenades, lovely salon pieces by Caccini, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Tosti. (The tenor favorite La Serenata proved just as enchant ing as a flute aperitif.) The sparkling insouciance of her playing was captivating. Williamsís stylish harp accompaniment on Cacciniís Amarilli was particularly fetching.

New World flutist Alice K. Dade took the solo honors in Beethovenís Serenade in D Major for Flute, Violin, and Viola, an early piece of charming dinner music. The eloquent principal theme of the Andante and Variations hints at the exalted titan to come. After a tentative Entrata, Dade offered vivacious playing and silvery tonal hues. Violinist Melissa Chung and violist Erik Rynearson were her patrician collaborators.

A New World string contingent offered a taut, lean and energetic traversal of Mozartí s Serenade in G Major (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik), the perfect finale to a delightful holiday musicale. 

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