BOCA RATON SYMPHONIA
ALEXANDER PLATT/ JULIA BENTLEY
HAYDN/ BRITTEN/ BEETHOVEN (2-10-08)
BOCA RATON SYMPHONIA PUTS ON VIVID, CRISP PERFORMANCE
By Lawrence Budmen
A glimpse into the future of the Boca Raton Symphonia was on display Sunday at the Roberts Theater when recently appointed Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Alexander Platt led the ensemble in a program that traversed the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Platt is a strong orchestral technician and lively musical presence. His performance of Haydn’s Symphony No.97 was especially buoyant and invigorating. Platt’s approach was an appealing combination of lithe, transparent contemporary performance practice and an older school of Haydn interpretation that emphasized greater musical weight and spaciousness.
In the second movement Adagio, the conductor enchantingly projected the embroidered filigree of the theme and variations without exaggeration. In a grandly aristocratic Menuetto that was definitely not for dancing, Platt delightfully illuminated the humor of the unexpected drum rolls.
Vivacious, incisive string articulation in the final Presto brought the symphony to a sparkling conclusion. The orchestra’s precise ensemble and superb playing recalled the best years of the Florida Philharmonic.
Julia Bentley was soloist in Colin Matthews’ luminous orchestration of Benjamin Britten’ s song cycle A Charm of Lullabies. The Chicago based mezzo-soprano is a Britten specialist, having sung the title role in the composer’s Rape of Lucretia at Chicago Opera Theater under Platt’s baton.
Based on poems by such writers as William Blake and Robert Burns, Britten’s songs abound in subtle word play and violent changes of mood. With its combination of other worldly pathos and jazzy vernacular elements, this score is Britten’s most Mahleresque vocal work.
Bentley’s light mezzo voice was not always audible in the theater’s warm but less than vocal friendly acoustics. She vividly encompassed Britten’ s mercurial moods from the pensiveness of Cradle Song to the despair of Sephestia’s lament and fierce anger of A Charm. In the concluding Nurse’s Song, Bentley soared in transcendent lullaby over a bluesy string figuration, played with silky tonal hues.
Platt set fleet tempos for the opening movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7. The Allegretto was eloquently shaped in wonderfully lyrical sense of line and flow.
The third movement Presto almost came to a halt when several wind players fell behind the conductor’s beat; the ensemble threatened to fall apart. Although Platt was able to rescue the situation, it appeared to unhinge the players. Platt delivered an energetic version of the rhythmic finale despite some playing that was rough around the edges.