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Musica Celestis by Pulitzer Prize winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis provided some heavenly sounds for the holidays. The work is beautifully conceived for string ensemble. It owes an artistic debt to Barber's Adagio for Strings. While Kernis is no Barber, his piece is a lovely vignette. (The difference is between Kernis's talent and Barber's genius.) The Boca Symphonia's strings were smooth as silk under Willis's subtly nuanced direction. Concertmaster Huigang Chen and Principal violist Scott O'Donnell contributed eloquent, richly burnished solo turns.

The Suite from Stravinsky's 1920 ballet score Pulcinella is a joyous reinvention of themes by Pergolesi. Willis's rousing view of the opening Sinfonia was prelude to a supple reading that did not ignore Stravinsky's astringent modes. Flutist Christine Nield's solos (particularly in the Gavotte and Variations) were a source of continuous aural delight. Willis and his outstanding wind section brought character and subtlety to the Variations. The brass fugue had pointed wit. Double bassist Shigeru Ishikawa was nothing less than brilliant in his difficult solo. The contrasting timbres of visceral brass and silky strings made the rapid fire Finale really glow.

Alastair Willis
Alastair Willis

Alastair Willis is an imaginative interpreter and a brilliant orchestral technician. There is clearly hope for South Florida's orchestral future. A splendid concert by a wonderful new ensemble!

Copyright © 12 January 2006 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA




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