TAMPA — Tchaikovsky is the comfort food of classical music. For many listeners, his works were an early love, and revisiting them can be a deeply nostalgic experience. Their sweeping melodies and strong rhythms always draw a good crowd, which was the case Friday for the Florida Orchestra's all-Tchaikovsky concert at Morsani Hall of the Straz Center.
Symphony No. 2, the Little Russian, which took up the first half of the program, is not one of the best Tchaikovsky symphonies (those would be Nos. 4, 5 and 6). But it's an entertaining work, and the orchestra was in good hands under music director Stefan Sanderling, who has a knack for keeping standard repertoire sounding fresh.
Assistant principal horn Brandon Beck began the symphony with a probing solo, soon joined by principal bassoon Anthony Georgeson, and they would return to the theme at the end of the first movement. Principal horn Robert Rearden has not played on the past two masterworks programs, and if Beck's solo did not have quite the Russian darkness of tone that is ideal, he and the rest of the horn section carried out their duties well. Another highlight was the barrage of percussion — gong, bass drum, cymbals and timpani —in the finale.
Concertmaster Jeffrey Multer was the soloist in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, which came after intermission and wound up the night in sensational style. It's often said that this concerto has the qualities of an aria, and if that is so, then Multer was like the coloratura soprano of a Verdi opera, bringing great clarity and articulation to the highest passages.
Multer's penetrating sound really sold the genial opening solo, and then, as he descended the scale, hit you in the solar plexus like a heavyweight's punch. His performance of the first movement cadenza was amazing, as he dashed off notes in the stratosphere with quicksilver panache. He caressed the melancholy Canzonetta, and his flashy fiddling in the finale was fit for a Cossack barn dance.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.