Monday, December 11, 2017
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Florida Orchestra's third Delius was most charming, but engineering will aid recorded sets

It is going to be fascinating to hear what results from the Florida Orchestra's live recording last weekend of a pair of works by Frederick Delius, Sea Drift and Appalachia. I heard and reviewed the first concert of two at the Mahaffey Theater, the venue for the rehearsals and recording sessions, then went to the third and final concert, which was not recorded, at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

In several ways, the performance at Ruth Eckerd was a better listening experience, and that is understandable. For one thing, the pressure to achieve perfection in the recording was off and everyone was undoubtedly more relaxed. Both recorded concerts at Mahaffey had their mishaps, such as the alarm on an audience member's watch that went off during Sea Drift. In one concert, music director Stefan Sanderling stopped Appalachia and started over because of coughing in the crowd.

By the time they got to Ruth Eckerd, Sanderling, baritone soloist Leon Williams, the orchestra players and members of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay had the benefit of two concerts under their belts. For this reason, audiences at the Clearwater hall, typically third in the masterworks series lineup after concerts in Tampa and St. Petersburg, often hear the most polished performances.

It also helped that Ruth Eckerd has better acoustics than Mahaffey, and Delius' layered orchestration and choral writing could be more clearly heard. As a consequence, I got a much stronger feel for the African-American musical influences in Appalachia, which now seems to me like a pivotal precursor to Jerome Kern's score for Show Boat and George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Williams' ease of expression in the Whitman text of Sea Drift had a theatrical quality that wasn't so readily discerned in the dry sound of the St. Petersburg theater, which, at a minimum, needs a good orchestral shell over the stage to improve its acoustics.

The orchestra chose to record its Delius disc, to be distributed on the Naxos label, at Mahaffey because the theater was more available for rehearsals and multiple performances, and I don't think the less than wonderful acoustics of the space are necessarily a problem, given the tools of engineers. The number of edits that go into a recording, even a so-called live one, can run into the many hundreds. The orchestra's recording was done by producer Thomas Moore and engineer Michael Bishop — both multiple Grammy Award winners — with Five/Four Productions of Cleveland.

His world's a circus

Most of the time, when a musician has a concert scheduled, the first thing he is asked is what he or she is going to play. But for Hahn-Bin, the first question probably would be: What are you going to wear?

Here's how the New York Times described the young violinist for a 2011 concert at the Morgan Library and Museum: "Clad in a black sleeveless kimono, dark raccoon-eye makeup and high mohawk, the soloist resembled an apocalyptic Kewpie doll."

Hahn-Bin (who uses only his first name), 24, was born in Seoul, South Korea, and came to the United States to study first at the Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles and then the Juilliard School in New York, where his teacher was Itzhak Perlman.

"He is an extremely talented violinist who is very, very individual," Perlman told the New York Times. "He combines music with drama and a visual element. It's very personal to him. When an artist feels it that personally, the audience does, too."

The Korean-American violinist's website is more akin to performance art, featuring his luridly face-painted profile and the headline, "The world's a circus. Own your inner clown."

Billed as "avant-pop classical," his program this week at the Palladium Theater is wildly eclectic, ranging from Bartok (Romanian Folk Dances) to Gershwin (My Man's Gone Now) to A Transylvanian Lullaby from Young Frankenstein. "Like the ancient performers of the Japanese Noh Theater … Hahn-Bin takes classical European music to places it has never been before," wrote Jim Luce for huffingtonpost.com about a recent concert at Joe's Pub in New York. "Moving around the stage in a trance, he mirrors ancient court performances, and at other moments he is wildly animated and aggressive, Kabuki-like in his movements."

Hahn-Bin performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday as part of the Young Concert Artist Series at the Palladium, St. Petersburg. $15, $25. (727) 822-3590.

Ahoy, Trekkies

Where no man has gone before: Trek is a spoof musical by Lauren Field and Gaetano Rodriguez, inspired by Star Trek. Accio Actors, a Pinellas Park troupe, gives a performance of the play about Captain Kirk, Spock and other members of Starfleet at 7 p.m. Tuesday as part of the Hot off the Press new play reading series at American Stage. Pay what you can (suggested $10-$20) or $15 advance. (727) 823-7529; americanstage.org.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716.

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