REMENYI EDE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
JAMES BROOKS-BRUZZESE/LASZLO PAP/CLAUDIA CAGNOSSONE/ ENDRE BALOG
VIVALDI/ POPPER/ RACHMANINOFF/ WIENIAWSKI/
J.S. BACH/ ORBAN/ LECUONA-MUNAR (7-17-09)
By Lawrence Budmen
Hungary's Remenyi Ede Chamber Orchestra brought warm, lustrous, quintessentially Central European string sonority and awesome precision to a highly varied program on July 17, 2009 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts' Amaturo Theater in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Under the expert baton of James Brooks-Bruzzese , Artistic Director of the Broward County based Symphony of the Americas, these splendid musicians echoed the contrasting vistas of high Baroque, lyrical romanticism, 20th century dance and sizzling Latin rhythms with equal fervor.
The concert was part of Summerfest 2009, a wide ranging tour that encompasses Hungary, Panama, Nicaragua and South Florida. For nearly two decades, the Symphony of the Americas has sponsored summer tours by prominent European chamber ensembles. Major outreach performances and educational workshops and master classes have been important highlights of these annual tours which have traversed Central and South America and the Caribbean islands. (Recently Brooks-Bruzzese and the Hungarian ensemble played to 5,000 children in Panama.)
Violinists Laszlo Pap and Claudia Cagnossone (both members of the Symphony of the Americas) joined Hungarian cello virtuoso Endre Balog for Vivaldi's Concerto in D minor for two violins and cello, Op.3 No.11 from L' Estro Armonico - a stellar opener. Brooks-Bruzzese's bright, vivacious tempi matched the gifted string players' sterling technique and incisive articulation. With effervescent keyboard continuo by Symphony of the Americas Vice-President and Executive Director Renee LaBonte, the entire performance was marked by clarity of texture and the rhythmic thrust that makes Baroque music dance.
Balog took solo honors in the Hungarian Rhapsody, Op. 68 by Hungarian cellist-composer David Popper (1843-1913). Popper, a distinguished pedagogue at the Budapest Conservatory, was a frequent artistic associate of Hubay and Brahms. His pupil Adolf Schiffer was the teacher of Janos Starker. Noted for his many cello compositions, Popper often utilized indigenous folk elements in his scores. In the Hungarian Rhapsody, he uses a theme that Brahms also channeled in one of his Hungarian Dances. Playing his own transcription of this crowd pleaser, Balog spun dazzling cello fireworks at lightning speed, spicing his impeccable performance with flavorful paprika. He was rewarded with a well deserved standing, cheering ovation.
Balog's transcription of Rachmaninoff's Vocalise for violin and cello found Pap and Balog producing luminous sonorities, accompanied by the ensembles' lush string textures. Brooks-Bruzzese's spacious phrasing established the perfect aura of Russian melancholia.
Playing his own transcription of Wieniawski's violin showpiece Scherzo Tarantelle, Op. 16, the Hungarian born Pap offered a brilliant demonstration of razzle-dazzle string acrobatics, investing the music with the potent mix of Italianate lightness and Russian romantic fire and passion.
The superb Remenyi Ede strings, supported by LaBonte's deft continuo, invested Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G Major with high voltage energy. The group's rich tone and suave élan enhanced Brooks-Bruzzese's idiomatic, high spirited approach. Eschewing vibrato less period instrument modes, this performance recalled the classic Bach of the late Karl Richter - a potent combination of vibrant string textures and exhilarating rhythmic urgency.
The Balzene Suite for Strings by contemporary Hungarian composer Gyorgy Orban (1947- ) is a six movement collection of dances, spanning several centuries and eras. Bruzzese noted that the opening Overture owes more than a little to Aaron Copland. Indeed Copland's Outdoor Overture comes to mind as the thematic strands are introduced. Valse Volante glistened in hues from the golden age of Hollywood, reminiscent of the waltz from the score for Madame Bovary by Miklos Rozsa . Vasska speaks in jazzy terms with Gershwinesque wit. The languor and color of the Tango are vividly captured in Orban's masterful rendering. Veux de Bonheur glows with the stately eloquence and tonal beauty of Elgar's string pieces. This arresting score, replete with beautiful writing for string ensemble, concludes with a fiery Zingarese. Orban is closely associated with the Remenyi Ede orchestra. The ensemble gave a brilliant, superbly detailed performance of this charming work.
Symphony of the Americas percussionist Gary Mayone joined the ensemble for Cuban and Panamanian medleys, arranged for Summerfest performances by Alfredo Munar. Music by Ernesto Lecuona, Eliseo Grenet, Moises Simons and Gonzalo Roig comprised the Cuban group,; Munar's wonderfully vivacious arrangements spotlighting a prominent solo piano and the beat of Mayone's emphatic bongo drum. Brooks-Bruzzese brought Latin swing and flair to this irrisistible music. Greater syncopation marked the lively music from Panama.
The audience's boundless enthusiasm brought two encores - a taut, high precision version of Johann Strauss' Pizzicato Polka and the Hoedown from Aaron Copland's ballet score Rodeo. The Hungarian musicians played this bon-bon with the swagger of country fiddlers. Copland's unique musical Americana was brought to life with real subtlety and flair by Brooks-Bruzzese. Indeed this performance was far superior to the average routine traversal. Conductor and orchestra provided a beguiling evening of musical delights.
The Remenyi Ede Chamber Orchestra conducted by James Brooks-Bruzzese presents a performance residency in Nicaragua July 23-26, 2009.
Symphony of the Americas, conducted by artistic director James Brooks-Bruzzese, opens the 2009-2010 season on October 20, 2009 at the Amaturo Theater, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA. Pianists Enrique Graf and Nibya Marino are soloists in Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos and Mozart's Piano Concerto No.21 in C Major, K.467. The program also features the world premiere of Mariamia by Magallanes and Almallanera by P.E. Gutierrez. For information see www.symphonyoftheamericas.org.