CAPTIVATING ARTISTS PREVIEW MIAMI DEBUTS

By Lawrence Budmen

As the second half of South Florida's music season is set to commence, several gifted young artists are scheduled to make their local debuts. A group of new recordings gives an enticing preview of some major musical talents.

Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian makes her first Miami appearance in a recital on March 21 for the Sunday Afternoons of Music series (at UM Gusman Hall). Ms. Bayrakdarian's new recording "Azulao" on the CBC label (www.cbcrecords.ca) is an enchanting collection of Spanish and Brazilian songs. Lauded for her recent appearances in Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Berlioz's rarely heard "Benvenuto Cellini" at New York's Metropolitan Opera, Bayrakdarian is on the verge of international stardom. Her amber colored voice, innate musicality, and emotion tinged delivery recall the young Sylvia McNair or Dawn Upshaw. Her ravishing pianissimos and elegant phrasing are a joy to hear. In songs by Granados, Gustavino, De Falla, and Montsalvage, her rapturous vocalism caresses the ear. In the "Bachianas Brasileiras No.5" by Heitor Villa-Lobos (backed by a rich toned cello ensemble under Bryan Epperson), her gorgeous, multicolored singing rivals the classic versions by Bidu Sayao, Natania Davrath, and Victoria De Los Angeles. (She sings the lively, astringent Danse as well as the haunting Aria.) A wonderful recording! 

On May 8 and 9 violinist James Ehnes, another youthful Canadian artist, plays Mendelssohn's eternally beautiful "Violin Concerto" with the New World Symphony under Alasdair Neale (at the Lincoln Theater). Ehnes shines in the music of the Viennese violinist-composer Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) on the Analekta label (www.analekta.com). Ehnes's fast vibrato and rich, silky tone is the perfect instrument for such sweet confections as "Caprice Vienois," "Liebeslied," Liebesfreud," as well as rarities like "Polchinelle," "Syncopation," and "Toy Soldier March." This is delightful music and Ehnes plays it con amore. The elegant pianism of Eduard Laurel provides strong support. The combination of these irresistible musical candies and Ehnes's artistry is utterly captivating! 

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is one of America's great ensembles. On March 27 the Concert Association presents the Cincinnatians under music director Paavo Jarvi (at the Gleason Theater) in a Beethoven-Prokofiev program. Jarvi is in his third season at the helm of this venerable orchestra. He is a dynamic conductor. His debut with the New World Symphony in 2002 revealed a command and authority that are the mark of a great conductor. Not since the early performances of James Levine and James Conlon had a young conductor made such a powerful impression. Jarvi's new Telarc recording (www.telarc.com) of the three suites from Prokofiev's ballet "Romeo and Juliet" (1940-46) proves again that he is an extraordinary maestro! Every bar of this voluptuous score is filled with fresh insight. The sensual passion Jarvi brings to the love music is overwhelming. Rhythms are crisp and sharp, articulation is brilliant and note perfect. The darkly resonant strings, mellow brass, elegant winds, and throbbing percussion make for a brilliant orchestral display - captured in state of the art sound. This great performance matches the splendid recording by Prokofiev's colleague Mark Ermler. Jarvi has that rare ability to make familiar music sound new and exciting again. 

Another Prokofiev ballet score "The Prodigal Son" (1929) has become familiar locally through repeated performances by Miami City Ballet. Despite the Balanchine choreography's classic status, the music has been rarely recorded. A new CPO recording (www.cpo.de) helps fill an important void. The eerie lyricism of the pas de deux for the prodigal and the siren is classic Prokofiev. The entire score receives a colorful performance from the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra under Michail Jurowski. The Russian born Jurowski's idiomatic conducting has much of the sparkle that Akira Endo used to bring to this music at the ballet. 

At their recent Miami concert the Pacifica Quartet offered a glowing performance of Dvorak's rarely heard "String Quartet in D Minor." On a new Cedille recording (www.cedillerecords.org) this Chicago based foursome offer more Dvorak - the rustic "String Quartet No.13 in G Major," Opus 106 and the American influenced "String Quintet in E-flat Major," Opus 97 (with Michael Tree, the superb violist of the Guarneri String Quartet). The tonal warmth, bright ensemble, and rhythmic vigor of the Pacifica players are unique. Their affinity for Dvorak's music is total. They capture both the lively Czech dances of the quartet and the Native American elements of the quintet. (Dvorak would inspire such American composers as Arthur Farwell, Charles Wakefield Cadman, and Edward Macdowell to write scores based on American Indian themes). Two wonderful Dvorak rarities in energetic performances!

Some wonderfully talented artists will appear on South Florida's music stages during the coming months. Thanks to the magic of recorded audio, their music will continue to resound long after the concerts have concluded. 


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