There are few more important or exciting contributions that an orchestra can make than premiering new music, as the Florida Orchestra showed Wednesday when it presented the new Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra by Tampa/Paris composer Alexandre Rudajev. Rudajev's three-movement work is in a traditional formal and tonal world, with easily digestible harmony and recognizable thematic manipulation. The two outer movements feature strong rhythms accentuated through motives in the brass and percussion. The soloist, the brilliant French saxophonist Claude Delangle, is given material that alternates between long breathed melodies and moderately challenging technical flourishes. The middle movement has the soloist in a melodic mode, often in the upper reaches of the instrument and in contrast with solo and section contributions from the lower strings.
It is an interesting work, worthy of inclusion in the repertory. Delangle's typically French style _ light, buttery tone and abundant vibrato _ might have been toughened in places for greater affect, but he clearly had all the technical virtuosity and musical taste to easily handle both the Rudajev and the Ibert Concertino.
In addition to the formal program, the orchestra and guest conductor Joann Falletta performed the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 in honor of the death of Leonard Bernstein. It was the most heartfelt and complete musicmaking from Falletta that evening: Her other work seemed more a collection of individual gestures than complete statements.
The Florida Orchestra, Joann Falletta conductor and Claude Delangle saxophone: Turina Danzas Fantasticas, Ibert Concertino da Camera, Rudajev Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra and Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibtion. Performance 8 p.m. Wednesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Further performances 8 p.m. today at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Tickets are $14-$24 and are available by calling 286-2403 (Hillsborough) or 447-4210 (Pinellas).