Maurice Ravel's music can sometimes be like a slow-paced movie, maybe one directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Time stands still and it's as if a complex painting is being created in front of you. Not boring by any means, but attention to the subtle details that are constantly unfolding is a must.
His ballet Daphnis et Chloé is one such piece, especially when separated from the visual element of dance. The gorgeous orchestration and abundance of color easily holds an audience's interest, but the action-packed moments are few and far between. If you know the story, one of those scenes is when pirates invade mythical ancient Greece and kidnap Chloé away from her courting lover Daphnis. At that point, the music is equally exciting as the story.
Joshua Weilerstein, guest conductor Friday evening for the Florida Orchestra's season finale, was especially animated during the appropriate moments, which brought a youthful energy to the podium. His phrasing of melodic lines also demonstrated an admirable amount of finesse for such a young conductor.
The Master Chorale, who joined the orchestra for the Ravel, was expertly prepared by James K. Bass. Even though they didn't sing a single word, their performance of vocal tones was still engrossing. But the most beautiful music of the concert was undoubtedly the extended flute solo toward the end of the ballet. Principal flutist Clay Ellerbroek was phenomenal as always.
Before intermission, Ellerbroek was featured along with principal harpist Anna Kate Mackle for Takemitsu's Toward the Sea II. If you're looking for flashy, you won't find it in this Japanese composer's work originally written for alto flute and guitar. The music is extremely delicate and nothing but a foggy dreamscape. Honestly, the piece is not for everyone, and most likely some members of the audience were bored out of their minds.
The Takemitsu was in stark contrast to Haydn's Symphony No. 60, which opened the concert. The symphony is titled Il Distratto ("The Distracted One"), which is an Italian title for the French play that was translated into German in Haydn's day. It certainly is not his best symphony — probably because it was conceived as incidental music instead — but it might be one of his funniest. Overall, the music selection didn't exactly read like a season finale, but there was plenty of humor, luscious music and storytelling.