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The concert opened with Visions and Miracles, a 1997 work by the American composer Christopher Theofanidis (born 1967). Theofanidis has a golden resumé: studies at Yale, the Eastman School of Music, and the University of Houston; Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships; awards of the Prix de Rome and the BBC Masterprize; the Pittsburgh Symphony's Composer of the Year for 2005-2006; and teaching positions at Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory and New York's Juilliard School. His gorgeously impressionistic Rainbow Body has been recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Robert Spano. Visions and Miracles is an imaginative, well crafted three movement suite. The opening section -- 'All joy wills eternity' -- is an exhilarating, rhythmically enthralling celebration of life. A contrasting hymn-like theme brings to mind Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. The middle movement -- 'Peace Love Light YOUMEONE' (based on the writings of Timothy Leary) -- is a series of ascending scales in soft dynamics -- at once calm, eerie, and beautiful. The concluding section -- 'I add brilliance to the sun' -- is a bracing, spiky display of rhythmical complexity. A lyrical second theme is warmly soulful. Theofanidis's string writing is dazzling. (With its high spirited vigor, songful contrasts, and instrumental variety, this piece would make a splendid ballet score.) Yoo and his musicians gave this quintessentially American work a riveting performance. The music making had incendiary energy but never slighted the music's lyrical subtext. Theofanidis was present to acknowledge the enthusiastic audience's standing ovation. He is an imaginative, sensitive, accomplished creative artist!

Christopher Theofanadis
Christopher Theofanadis

Scott Yoo is a first rate conductor. He commanded dynamic playing from the young musicians and imbued each score with idiomatic fervor and a wonderful sense of the music's ebb and flow. The piercing energy with which the players attacked the opening Allegro of Gustav Mahler's orchestral transcription of Schubert's String Quartet in D minor D810 (Death and the Maiden) was a tribute to Yoo's brilliant direction. The entire Allegro had an almost joyous, edgy propulsion that was wonderful -- reinvigorating familiar music. Yoo's slower tempo for the coda made the drama all the more intense. He handled the theme and variations of the Andante con moto with a masterful sense of the score's heavenly variety and endless inspiration. The music flowed forth with a sense of inevitability and eloquence. The Scherzo: Allegro molto was tensely phrased -- an almost pensive energy beneath the heartbeat of the notes. By contrast the Trio had glowing warmth and Viennese lilt. An invigorating rendition of the Presto finale capped an insightful performance. Mahler's transcription is a marvelously effective work when performed with such sensitivity!

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Copyright © 27 September 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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