Make us your home page

Review: Mozart, Diamond & Brahms concert shows off Florida Orchestra's skill

To hear the Florida Orchestra this weekend is to be reminded what a magnificent animal a symphony orchestra can be. It leaps, it soars, it whispers. It percolates with a thousand moving parts.

Two of the pieces on the Masterworks program, led by eminent guest conductor Gerard Schwarz, revealed the range and depth of the orchestra's virtuosity.

David Diamond's Symphony No. 4, written in 1945-46, is a kaleidoscopic swirl of activity. Diamond writes in a sonorous tonal style, with lots of open-voiced chords, similar to some other mid-century American composers such as Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland. But Diamond is also a master of counterpoint. Every snippet of rhythm and melody provokes a reaction in another part of the orchestra. The music cannot help but move forward, and you are irresistibly drawn into it.

The three-movement work showcases every part of the orchestra. The strings sweep and billow. The winds do their busy job of providing contrast and texture. The trumpets punctuate. And the percussion, never overbearing, adds just the right amount of urgency.

Diamond died in 2005, a month before his 90th birthday. He and conductor Schwarz were good friends; he often visited or traveled with Schwarz's family. On Friday night, their affinity showed.

The other showpiece turned out to be something of a surprise: the thorny modernist Arnold Schoenberg's 1937 orchestration of a Brahms quartet for piano and strings, written in 1861. One composer choosing to flesh out another's small-scale piece is not uncommon — Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, originally written for piano alone, may be the most famous.

In an engaging pre-concert talk with some of the audience, Schwarz recalled that Schoenberg offered three reasons for undertaking the project. First, the quartet was not often played anymore, at least in those days. Second, when it was played, it was often played badly. Finally, when it was played well it was usually because a very good pianist was taking the quartet's hardest part. But the pianist also tended to overshadow the other players, which meant a listener didn't always hear all the notes.

"I want to be sure you hear all the notes," Schoenberg reportedly said.

And indeed you do. From the very start you realize this is Brahms, not Schoenberg: There are those long melodic lines that seem always to have a couple more wrinkles than you expect; those unfolding harmonies; that anchor of a sturdy bass line. The real fun comes in listening to Schoenberg spread the music to all 78 musicians on stage. You hear arpeggios you just know were written for piano, passed around between the strings and the woodwinds, especially the flutes at the top end. You hear xylophones and gongs. Horns, trumpets, trombones and tuba give the third movement a martial air. After the fourth movement — a rollicking rondo that reminds you of the composer's Hungarian Dances — you feel as if you've just discovered that Brahms wrote a fifth symphony to go with his other four. Amazing.

It seemed right that the program should also include some Mozart, given Schwarz's long association with the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York. The symphony he chose was an early one, No. 28, written when Mozart was 18. Friday's performance, using just 35 players, was chipper enough, but to my ear it was weighed down by an unfocused darkness of tone in the violins that belied the sunniness of the piece.

If you go

Mozart, Diamond & Brahms

The Florida Orchestra has two more concerts: 8 p.m. Saturday at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and 7:30 Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. $15-$45. Toll-free 1-800-662-7286. Preconcert talk by Gerard Schwarz begins an hour before concert.

Review: Mozart, Diamond & Brahms concert shows off Florida Orchestra's skill 04/12/14 [Last modified: Saturday, April 12, 2014 4:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Tuesday May 30


    Finding Neverland: The hit Broadway show follows the story behind playwright J.M. Barrie as he struggles to find inspiration to create Peter Pan, until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. 7:30 p.m., Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, …

    Mitchell Wray, Jordan Cole, Finn Faulconer and Ben Krieger as the Llewelyn Davies Boys in the National Tour of Finding Neverland. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  2. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  3. Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

    Food & Dining

    Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation …

    Soft pretzels are displayed with a beer at the Features Gastropub in the Riverview 14 GDX  theater in Gibsonton, Fla. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.   The 5,900-square-foot Features Gastropub open in the . This element of the project is the brainchild of Philadelphia chef Brian Duffy, who appears frequently on NBC's The Today Show and the Spike TV show Bar Rescue
  4. From the food editor: I love that food is a huge part of Master of None's transcendent second season


    Deep into a late-night binge of Master of None, Aziz Ansari's Netflix series that returned for its second season May 12, I realized I was laying as far back on my couch as possible, blanket clutched up to my chin, eyebrows permanently raised.

    Dev (Aziz Ansari) and Arnold (Eric Wareheim) eat lunch in Modena, Italy, in the second season of "Master of None."
  5. Three 'MasterChef' contestants from the Tampa Bay area talk cooking inspiration and more


    When Gordon Ramsay's MasterChef begins its eighth season tonight, the Tampa Bay area will have three contestants to root for. A marketing director from Tampa, a dentist and Palm Harbor native, and an employee for a steel supply company are all trying to impress a trio of judges with their home-cooking skills.

    Jeff Philbin, from Tampa, left, Palm Harbor native Paola Annoni Patel, and Danny Flores, of Land 'O Lakes, will be competing on the season premiere of "Masterchef."