Mainly Mozart Finale Ends the Season with a Klezmer Flourish

Written By Sean Erwin
February 21, 2018 at 8:11 PM

Talk of weddings can quickly split a friendly gathering into camps of pro and con. Those on the pro side retell the moment when the crying six-year-old ring bearer, stunned by the attention of the hall, was comforted by a phalanx of tuxedoed best men. The cons describe the newlyweds whose forever love couldn’t survive two weeks in Acapulco.

The organizers of Miami’s 24th Mainly Mozartfestival know the joys and shortcomings of the human ritual and have selected works for this year’s finale intended to present the celebration with all its quirks. This Sunday at the Arsht Center, they have united musicians from the Cleveland and Cincinnati orchestras, dancers from Miami City Ballet and the work of poet-scholar Mitchell Chefitz, rabbi at Temple Beth Israel Miami, for a closing performance that includes works from Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and several others.

Artistic Director Marina Radiushina emphasized that this year’s finale may be named The Jewish Bride,but the intention behind the title was to acknowledge the subject’s rich musical tradition as well as to affirm the universality of marriage.“Marriage is the common theme uniting the program’s different works. Marriage is about how there comes to be a unit that wasn’t there before – there were forces that created this unit; this could be said about the creation of the entire universe, just as it is said about the marriage between a man and a woman,” reflected Radiushina.

Whether you are pro or con on marriage, weddings are ceremonies with many moving parts, and the program represents this by associating a composer, a poem from Chefitz, and a choreography with a different moment in a Jewish wedding. For instance, the section titled “Tenayim,” marks the moment when the families meet for the first time and work out the financial and logistical arrangements for the coming event. No surprise that during the back and forth tensions arise and tempers can flare.

As a musical parallel to this moment of the ritual, the program includes Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes (opus 34), arranged for strings, clarinet and piano.The overture communicates the drama of negotiations through the counterpoint of the clarinet with the other instruments, striking a klezmer motif that exits quickly when met with the aggressive staccato passages of both the strings and piano. According to Radiushina, the mix of the instruments communicates the sensation that “something high energy and a little unpredictable is about to happen.”

During this phase, the mother-in-law traditionally passes special plates to the other side of the family. This act symbolically and materially unifies the two families.For the fifth year, Miami City Ballet’s Adriana Pierce contributes original choreographies to accompany the music for the festival finale. For Pierce, choreographing for something like The Jewish Bride has its own set of challenges.

“During ‘Tenayim’the families pass a plate between them. We didn’t want to rely on pantomime but to use movements that expressed the emotions of the event,” said Pierce. “So how do they pass a plate that is not there? The dancers stand in a line and they hand off energy – like a ripple. Each dancer’s arms make a circle and first the energy passes low in front of them and then above them. Traditionally at the end of the ritual the plate is smashed. We don’t actually smash a real plate so in the performance the dancers toss the pantomimed plate into the air and it will smash on the screen above their heads. This was a great way to fuse dance and visuals.”

In past years the finale included a featured performer, and this year’s highlights celebrated Israeli clarinetist, Moran Katz.Radiushina first worked with Katz when they both were members of Carnegie Hall’s Affiliate Ensemble and considered Katz and her clarinet a perfect pairing for the program’s pieces. In fact, Katz has arranged a traditional klezmer tune for the program, though each of the works features the clarinet prominently. For instance, clarinet drives the concluding piece by contemporary Israeli composer Boris Pigovat, whose “Yewish Wedding”features a fiery klezmer, where the clarinet screeches out notes and even mimics fits of laughter. 

For Radiushina, Pigovat’s concluding piece conveys the program’s intent: “We are going to take our audience on an interesting journey that aims to remind them of how any kind of love is a coming together.”

What: The Mostly Mozart Festival Season Finale, featuring clarinetist Moran Katz

When: Sunday at 4 p.m.

Where: Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami.

Info: Tickets $10-$30; or call 305 949-6722.


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