TAMPA — The Florida Orchestra is fortunate that it has a concertmaster in Jeffrey Multer who thrives in the spotlight. Some concertmasters, no matter how good they might be, don't have the artistic personality to stand in front of their orchestras as soloists. Multer, however, embraces the role, as he showed Friday night as the soloist in the Sibelius Violin Concerto at Ferguson Hall of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
In a way, the violinistic stars were in alignment, because Multer was aided by guest conductor Marcelo Lehninger, a violinist himself, as well as assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and music director of the New West Symphony in Los Angeles. And, of course, Sibelius, too, was a fiddle player.
Right from the plaintive passage by the soloist at the start, Multer brought a passionate romanticism to the great Slavic melodies of the first two movements. He plunged into the first-movement cadenza with fearless abandon. Only in the dramatic third movement did his stamina seem to flag.
After intermission, Multer, violin case in hand, took an aisle seat in the hall to listen to the rest of the concert. The concertmaster is on the search committee for the orchestra's next music director, and Lehninger could conceivably be a candidate. The conductor had acquitted himself well in the concerto, expertly handling the complex transitions between orchestra and soloist, though timpani and cellos were too loud beneath Multer in early measures of the finale.
Lehninger was in his element in Rachmaninoff's lush, long Symphony No. 2, leading the orchestra in an elegant, thrilling performance. Rarely have the big Hollywood tunes sounded so grand.
Rachmaninoff took his time to say what he had to say in the Second, and some conductors make cuts in the work. But Lehninger played all 59 minutes of it, except for the first movement's repeat. As a viola player told me before the concert, Rachmaninoff is like chocolate, and you can never have too much chocolate.
John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.