TAMPA — 2013 is the 200th anniversary of the birth (on May 22) of Richard Wagner, and his music is going to be performed even more than usual around the world, topped by a new Ring cycle this summer at the composer's shrine, the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. The Florida Orchestra joined the party Friday by opening its concert with the overture from Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, with guest conductor Cristian Macelaru on the podium at Ferguson Hall of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
Under Macelaru, associate conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, you could hear where golden-age Hollywood composers took their cues for big-screen Westerns and Gothic romances (and cartoons), as Wagner's picturesque score compressed all the action of the opera into 12 minutes, with plenty of stirring French horn calls, surging strings and tempestuous timpani.
Orion Weiss was the nimble soloist in Mozart's last piano concerto, No. 27, and he was especially good in the melancholy Larghetto, exhibiting delicate restraint in exposed solo passages. Tempos between pianist and orchestra were a bit out of joint in the first and third movements, resulting in a tendency to rush. Weiss showed off his bravura technique in Mozart's two densely notated cadenzas.
In 1829, Mendelssohn toured the ruins of Holyrood Castle, palace of Mary, Queen of Scots, in Edinburgh, and "I found there the beginning of my Scotch symphony," he wrote in a letter. His Symphony No. 3, its four movements played without pause, is a beautifully crafted work, complete with a toe-tapping highland reel. Macelaru — bushy-haired, flamboyant of gesture — drew an inspired performance from the orchestra.
Finally, there is a blast from the past this weekend among the French horns: James Wilson, longtime principal until about five years ago, is playing as a substitute in the section.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.