The Mainly Mozart Festival moved from Coral Gables to the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami for its season finale on Sunday. Surprisingly, the varied program mixing chamber music, film and dance drew a full house on a hot summer afternoon. Titled “My Homeland,” the concert showcased a series of scores strongly influenced by nationalist themes and indigenous musical sources.
Long before the term “world music” became part of popular culture, many composers were drawn to the sounds and rhythms of rural populations. The filmed segments provided historical background about the featured composers and many of the visual images were colorful and striking. With musical selections following the video without pause, the production flowed seamlessly.
The opening work, Rachmaninoff's early Trio Elegiaque, is steeped in the brooding romantic style of Tchaikovsky rather than Russian folk sources. Festival artistic director Marina Radiushina was a supportive presence at the piano, and cellist Amit Peled carried the melodic lines, his dark resonance capturing the score's mournful sadness. Violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou played with a combination of soaring tone and the fervent musicality of which stars are made.
Hou attacked Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances and Ravel's Tzigane with the gutsy sound of a gypsy fiddler. Her intonation on the sustained high string passages was spot-on and she mixed softly caressing moments with an appealingly wiry sound that encapsulated the music's folk roots. This gifted Canadian artist should be heard more frequently in the U.S.
Tall and bespectacled with a large mop of hair, Peled looks like a combination of college professor and rock star. Intensely physical, the passion of the cellist’s music-making seems to charge through his entire body. Playing in a straightforward manner, Peled's reading of Ernest Bloch's Prayer was all the more soulful and effective without overheated exaggeration. Glazunov's Chant du Menestrel (Minstrel's Song) found Peled leaping between registers.
Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze's Five Pieces on Folk Themes was an audience-friendly musical dessert that displayed the range and virtuosity of cello and piano alike. In the plucked Chnoguri, Peled imitated the sound of a native instrument replete with off-kilter rhythmic patterns. With Radiushina’s fleet-fingered keyboard work, the toe-tapping Sachidao could have come from the score of Fiddler on the Roof. In a solo turn, Radiushina exhibited a genuine flair for Rachmaninoff, the pianist bringing out the rippling figurations beneath the melody of Spring Waters and spinning Lilacs with a sensitive touch.
Choreographer Adriana Pierce set three movements from Dvorak's Trio No. 4 ( Dumky) as a parable of enslaved people yearning for their homeland. While one male dancer moved in angular patterns, a couple whirled in playful steps with athletic physicality. While the choreography was striking in individual moments, the Dvorak score did not seem like a very good fit for balletic interpretation. The high-energy performance of Miami City Ballet dancers Emily Bromberg, Ashley Knox, Anrei Chagas and Eric Trope nonetheless provided excitement with Hou, Peled and Radiushina tackling Dvorak’s score in fiery fashion.
As an encore, Bromberg and Renan Cerdeiro danced the languid pas de deux from Pierce's ballet version of Paul Schoenfield's Cafe Music, an ideal match of icy sexuality and blues-tinged melodies, played and danced with style.