By Lawrence Budmen

The indefatigable James Brooks-Bruzzese took the stage of the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on April 17 for the final concert of the Symphony of the Americas’ 19th season. From the exuberant high spirits of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No.8 to the rousing encores, the concert aptly demonstrated this conductor’s formidable accomplishments. This orchestra is now a supple, precise ensemble that excels in a wide variety of repertoire.

Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp is a gem. This score abounds with inspired melodies, subtle instrumental writing, and the sheer creative genius of the Salzburg wunderkind. Eugenia Zukerman was a stellar soloist. The dulcet hues of her crystalline flute embraced Mozart’s melismas with the soft beauty of incandescence. She essayed the soaring bel canto lines of the Andantino with the grace and flexibility of a superb chamber player. Her exhilarating reading of the Allegro finale capped a delightful performance.

Harpist Katie Ott’s playing was always stylish and deftly articulated. She blended with Zukerman’s sweet tones seamlessly. Brooks-Bruzzese’s moderate tempos and ingratiating support had the intimacy and warmth of fine chamber music. As an encore, Zukerman and Ott offered a Spanish tinged piece by the Frenchman Jacques Ibert, played with ravishing elegance and élan. 

Brooks-Bruzzese’s strong, virile reading of Beethoven’s Symphony No.8 in F Major captured the joyous verve of this most sunny of symphonies by the master from Bonn. His alert, vigorous tempos in the opening Allegro vivace e con brio were rousing indeed. He captured the wit of the Allegretto scherzando with particularly suave playing from the strings. The orchestra’s horns shone resplendently in the trio section of the Tempo di Menuetto which flowed with disarming ease. In the concluding Allegro vivace, Brooks-Bruzzese balanced the humor and Mozartean orchestral felicities of this vivacious symphonic milestone.

Turning to the Pops repertoire, Brooks-Bruzzese unfurled a swinging version of John Kander’s New York, New York and a stirring rendition of Sousa’s perennial Stars and Stripes Forever, played with sterling musicianship as well as fervor. 

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