Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Florida's Classical Scene Has a 'Burgh Feel

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Florida's Classical Scene Has a 'Burgh Feel

Article excerpt

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Every winter, "snowbirds" from the Northeast flock to South Florida to escape the cold. This is one reason why Pittsburgh Opera suspends its mainstage productions between November and March, when a good number of its subscribers are away.

This year's weather being unusually harsh, there are more Northerners than ever here, with Pittsburghers visible among audiences and on stage. For classical music lovers, there are local and visiting orchestras, two opera companies in the vicinity and chamber music events.

With the demise of the Florida Philharmonic in 2003, there has been no major symphony orchestra in South Florida, although Miami- based New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas is a training orchestra that maintains world-class standards. Former Florida Philharmonic music director James Judd curates a classical music series in Fort Lauderdale's elegant Broward Center, with visits from the Estonian National Symphony, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

Symphony of the Americas, Fort Lauderdale's resident chamber orchestra, is now in its 26th season, the longest surviving orchestra in South Florida. Conductor James Brooks-Bruzzese is a Duquesne University alumnus who provides a subscription series in Broward Center, along with smaller events in between the big concerts. A splendid concerto concert this month featured Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto alongside the Cello Concerto, Op. 85, of Elgar.

Mr. Brooks-Bruzzese is an excellent technician, always right with the soloist and sensitive to individual artists' nuances of phrasing. Ciro Fodere, a recent Carnegie Mellon University graduate, sailed through Rachmaninoff's thorniest writing with deft fingerwork, while Iris van Eck, the orchestra's principal cellist, was no less virtuosic, producing gorgeous tone in Elgar's work on an 1841 French-made instrument.

In previous weeks, Symphony of the Americas presented two events taking advantage of the unusual venues this city offers: a lunchtime opera recital aboard Holland America's Westerdam, docked for the day in Port Everglades; and "Serenade @ Sunset" -- a vocal-instrumental chamber music soiree involving the excellent soprano Courtney Budd, in the spectacular revolving Pier Top lounge of the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel. …

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