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Boca Symphonia shows joyful vigor with Mozart


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Dec. 20--Mozart is a merciless test for an orchestra. While musicians will talk of the technical challenges of Strauss or Wagner, there's nothing like the delicate texture of a Mozart symphony to expose a weak link in the violins or a clueless conductor.

The Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia on Sunday gave a superb performance of Mozart's 41st symphony, showing the orchestra entering its second season with increased assurance, technical prowess and a joyful vigor to its playing.

Under the direction of guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, music director of Oregon's Eugene Symphony, the orchestra also performed works of Elgar and Piazzolla at the Saint Andrew's School's Roberts Theater.

Composed largely of former members of the defunct Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, the 35-member ensemble is less than half the size of a standard symphony orchestra. But it has found a successful path by programming classical-era symphonies and carefully selected romantic and modern works that wouldn't suffer for the absence of larger forces.

The orchestra's sound is rich and full-bodied. Strings play with dead-on intonation. While Sunday's program provided less work for winds and brass than most concerts, they played with clarity and feeling, particularly in the Mozart symphony's luminous slow movement. And during the work's difficult last movement, where the polyphonic writing can turn to mush in the wrong hands, all parts of the orchestra came together for a masterful and radiant performance.

In the opening work, Elgar's Serenade for Strings, the orchestra plodded through the first movement but came alive in the second, where Guerrero showed a gift for shaping the long lines of Elgar's melodies.

The young violinist Bella Hristova, who came to the United States from Bulgaria in 1999, played Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, a work inspired by Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

With a sure technique that easily surmounted the work's virtuoso requirements, Hristova performed the tango master's dusky, sensuous melodies with just the right amount of schmaltz, and with an abandon that was a welcome contrast to the painfully correct playing offered by some soloists.

This season the orchestra will perform 10 concerts, up from six last season. Judging from the nearly full hall, the expanded season and the high quality of the performance, the orchestra has a promising future.

David Fleshler can be reached at dfleshler@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4535.

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Copyright (c) 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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