Hungarian chamber orchestra brings polish and energy to Summerfest concert
An excellent Hungarian chamber orchestra performed Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale as part of Symphony of the America’s Summerfest series, playing a concert of short works that ranged from the powdered-wig era of 18th century Austria to the smoky nightclubs of Buenos Aires.
The Reményi Ede Chamber Orchestra of Hungary played at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, as part of a series of performances that take the orchestra to Hungary, Panama and Ecuador.
The orchestra, led by Symphony of the America’s artistic director James Brooks-Bruzzese, performed a light, summer-style program, with some works that would be familiar to most concertgoers and others that could be appreciated easily on first hearing. A few members of Symphony of the Americas joined the ensemble for the performance. The concerts repeat July 22 through July 28 at various locations throughout South Florida.
The orchestra brought a high energy level, a rich sound and technical precision to every work on the program. The ensemble’s versatility was impressive, as it played with brisk authority in classical works of Mozart and Boccherini and throbbing, insinuating romanticism in tangos by Piazzolla. Particularly effective was a crackling performance of Boccherini’s Sinfonia No. 6 in D Minor, La casa del diavolo (The house of the devil), given a dramatic, symphonic account, especially in the sizzling final movement.
The only weak part of the program came at the end, with a performance of the 20th century Hungarian composer Leo Weiner’s Divertimento No. 1, a forgettable series of Hungarian-sounding motifs that occasionally recalled Bartók and earlier Hungarian music but lacked much originality.
The concert opened with Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins, Cello and Cembalo, taken at a quick pace that gave it real rhythmic drive. With so many different soloists, this work can come off as a blur of notes, but Brooks-Bruzzese led a vigorous, strongly marked performance with transparent textures that allowed solo lines to emerge and fade into the background in a manner that never allowed the music to lose shape.
Violinist Laszlo Pap, associate concertmaster of Symphony of the Americas and a graduate of Budapest’s famed Franz Liszt Academy, performed Vitali’s Ciaccona for Violin and Orchestra, a series of increasingly difficult variations on a theme, involving chords, arpeggios and treacherous leaps up the fingerboard. In addition to crisp bowing and a flawless technique, Pap brought a dramatic flair to the performance, seeming to inhabit the role of the glamorous Central European virtuoso.
In the Elegie from Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, the orchestra departed from the crisp, exposed baroque and classical works that made up the rest of the first half and displayed its tonal richness and sensitivity of phrasing. Particularly fine was the passage in which a melody in the cellos is set against one high in the first violins, played with warmth and transparent clarity.
Mozart’s Divertimento in D, K. 136, came off with authority and polish, with particularly good work by the second violins in the composer’s swiftly streaming inner passages.
Part of the concert was dedicated to philanthropist and arts patron Rose Miniaci, who just celebrated her 90th birthday. Pap performed the Meditation from Massenet’s opera Thaïs, played with a singing tone that brought out the work’s lyricism without milking it too shamelessly. The orchestra played Happy Birthday as pink balloons were dropped onto the audience.