1. Stage

Florida Orchestra season ends on a triumphant note with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5

Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic? plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto for the Florida Orchestra’s final concert of the season.
Published May 20, 2017

TAMPA — The Florida Orchestra ends its 49th season with a complete set of three qualitatively different pieces. They joined Beethoven and Tchaikovsky with a brand new work on a weekend that signals the departure of one of its longest-serving musicians and the ascent of first-year principals.

The orchestra under the baton of music director Michael Francis delivered a stunning Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, bringing a full-house audience to an ovation lasting several minutes Friday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. It was as good as anything the orchestra has done all year.

The evening began with Deconstruction of Anger, Francesco Sclafani's ironically titled balancing act between cold objectivity and rage.

Haven't heard of Sclafani? If this world premiere was any indication, you will. In March, the 23-year-old University of South Florida student won a composing contest sponsored by USF and the orchestra with this piece. Sclafani explained his motivation and methods in a brief address to the audience. The key, he said, was to stretch himself with an emotion he said he rarely feels, identifying different types of anger and giving each a musical form.

It starts with a sharp strike of strings, the physical embodiment of a war of nerves. Various types of percussion burst in, almost from the starting gate. It builds as horns take the lead. The New York of Sclafani's Italian father springs to mind, with all of its elbowing angles and cellular shifts, like fury captured under a microscope lens.

The night's title piece, Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, better known as the Emperor,' is considered a step forward for soloists in becoming co-equal with the orchestra. In this case, the soloist is Croatian pianist Dejan Lazić, who launches the piece with the composer's explicitly written-out cadenza. In this first of his concertos, which Beethoven himself did not play, the soloist's prominence might signify a kind of announcement as to the pianist's continuing importance, parallel with the "entrance" of the mythical emperor someone else attached to it.

Lazić combines technical mastery with a pronounced or even flamboyant expression, often taking the volume of the music way down, as if insisting we listen to the delicacies. While this takes a little getting used to, it's a legitimate interpretation and one that complements the orchestra but does not overshadow it.

But the night's highlight was the astonishing performance of the Tchaikovsky, a rumination of his inner battle with the society that repressed his homosexuality. He wrote it at age 48, five years before his death. The first movement begins with unison clarinets, broadening as bassoon and string sections join in. Strings that enter on a plateau suddenly diverge in opposite directions. Bursts of desire meet with shame-based retractions, only to re-emerge even stronger.

The second movement opens with principal horn player David Smith's breathtaking solo, one of the most evocative in the instrument's repertoire, clarinet and bassoon tenderly woven around it. The tempo shifts to a waltz in the third movement but never really eases. A magisterial fourth movement brought together all of the elements that prompted the audience to pack the hall — the grand resolution of a masterwork, and a full orchestra under the physical direction of Francis, who is wringing excellence out of them to the triumphant finale.

Contact Andrew Meacham at or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.


  1. Randy Rainbow will perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Saturday. Courtesy of Varela Media
    Plus, St. Petersburg Opera’s ‘Merry Widow’ and more.
  2. The cast of American Stage's production of "Vietgone" includes Sami Ma as Tong and Jeff Kim as Quang. Courtesy of Joey Clay Studio
    An immigrant story with voice offers a fresh perspective.
  3. On Saturday, J.B. Smoove will perform at Ferguson Hall, part of Tampa's Straz Center. RICHARD SHOTWELL  |  Invision/AP
    The comedian known for portraying Leon Black on ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ likes to wing it. He hits the Straz Center’s Ferguson Hall on Saturday.
  4. The cast performs 'On The Deck Of A Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492' in the Stage West production of 'Songs for a New World', which will be presented Oct. 17-27. Pictured at top, from left: Paris Seaver, Anthony Agnelli and Nicki Poulis. Standing in front: Jay Garcia. Timothy Rooney
    See ‘Songs for a New World’ and other shows in the north Suncoast
  5. Wayne Brady will perform at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Sunday. Courtesy of Mahaffey Theater
    There’s Jeanne Robertson and an inventive Florida Orchestra collaboration, too.
  6. Emilee Dupre and Eric Davis star in Freefall Theatre's production of "The Turn of the Screw." Courtesy of Thee Photo Ninja
    A spooky, risk-filled performance will leave you with questions. | Review
  7. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" will roll through Tampa as part of the Straz Center's 2019-20 Broadway series. JOAN MARCUS  |  Straz Center
    ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ Roy Wood Jr., ‘Vietgone’ at American Stage, Piff the Magic Dragon and more.
  8. Music director Michael Francis leads the Florida Orchestra in the Star-Spangled Banner on Friday during the season-opening program at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. JAY CRIDLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Friday’s opening night portrayed Tampa as a melting pot, delivering diverse pieces pulled from around the world. | Concert review
  9. Bernadette Peters is pictured at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 2015. CHARLES SYKES  |  AP
    Peters follows the likes of Sting and Seal playing with the orchestra.
  10. Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, shown performing "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Florida Orchestra at St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater in January, will join the orchestra for its 2019-20 season-opening program this weekend. J.M. LENNON  |  Lennon Media
    Plus, SuicideGirls at Tampa Theatre and comedian Bryan Callen at Tampa Improv.