Raise the Baton

Miami Symphony Orchestra’s conductor breathes new life into city’s classical music treasure.

By Michelle F. Solomon

M iami Symphony Orchestra’s Maestro Eduardo Marturet wants each concert that his orchestra performs to be an event. Without taking away the elegance of what a classical orchestral presentation should be, the maestro believes there’s fun to be had, especially as audiences for classical music dwindle.

raise-the-baton-2“We have to be creative. The orchestra has to be elegant, but it can also be hip,” says the vivacious Marturet, who is beginning his ninth season as music director and conductor with MISO.

The Caracas native led orchestras in live performances and recordings in Germany, Holland, Budapest, Amsterdam, Venezuela, Italy, Greece, France, Spain, and many other countries — but for three decades, had a second home in Miami (his primary residence was Caracas). “In 2006, when I took over the Miami Symphony, I would commute between Caracas and Miami. But lately, for the last two years, I am spending much more time in Miami. The city has always been part of my DNA,” he says. “I have witnessed how Miami has changed, and it’s going to change in the future, and its orchestra should be a reflection of that.”

Part of jazzing things up is wearing colorful shoes on the podium, conducting with a parrot on his shoulder, and getting national coverage for “flash mobbing” travelers at the Miami International Airport with the 90-piece ensemble playing the music of Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and Dvorak — live — in the middle of the South Terminal.

raise-the-baton-3His wife, Athina Klioumi — herself an actress, model, and writer — met another famous wife, Lisa Pliner, whose husband is shoe designer Donald J. Pliner. “When Donald saw that Eduardo is not afraid to do new things, he said, ‘Let’s dress him; he has to wear some of my shoes.’ Then Donald donated shoes for the orchestra.”

Some might call Marturet’s ways gimmicky, but it’s his way of making performances exciting and bringing much-needed attention to the orchestra.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1989 by Manuel Ochoa. The creator of Havana’s Sociedad Coral (Choral Society) in the 1940s, Ochoa settled in Miami after the Cuban Revolution when, prior to that, he had been studying and working in Cuba, Spain, Vienna, and Rome. As a Cuban exile, he is credited with being a visionary for recognizing the creative opportunities that Miami could offer as the Gateway to the Americas. Through the years under his baton, the Miami Symphony Orchestra became a source of pride for the city’s Latin community. In 2005, Marturet joined the orchestra as its associate principal conductor. The next year, Ochoa died at the age of 80, and Marturet took over.

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“At the time I knew that I only wanted to get involved if I felt that I could build something — if I had the support to create a good orchestra. I wanted to hire good personnel, and I wanted to be able to realize a vision for the next 50 years for the orchestra — well beyond my tenure,” says Marturet.

He likens hiring his music personnel to creating a solid soccer team or rugby team. “If you want to mold it into something, the sum of its parts is having good players. And that was what my main job was — to get the best possible players, and I have slowly been achieving that.”
He mentions the crucial position of principal horn — Honduran-born French horn player Hector J. Rodriguez, known as one of the most versatile horn players of his generation and who plays with the Chicago Symphony, NHK Orchestra in Tokyo, Maggio Musicale Florentino Orchestra in Italy, and the National Orchestra of the Dominican Republic. Rodriguez was one of the first to be recruited by Marturet. “He has really helped to bring up the stature of our brass section,” says Marturet.

Another important position for the orchestra was that of concertmaster. Marturet’s choice? Daniel Andai, a Miami native, who is also the orchestra’s principal violinist, and now right hand man to Marturet.

“Eduardo, as the artistic director and conductor, has connected well with the community. He is definitely someone who has helped the orchestra gain more visibility,” says Andai, who was appointed concertmaster in 2008, and who guest conducts the orchestra. “We’ve been playing more concerts in our season than previously, and the orchestra went through a rebranding a few years ago,” he says. (The moniker of MISO was included in that rebranding.)

raise-the-baton-5“We do a lot of world premieres and Florida premieres, which have been positive for the orchestra and for local musicians who have the opportunity to play these pieces. The orchestra is a career enhancement for many local musicians and for emerging composers we have writing for the orchestra. This creates a jumping off point for them to have their works played by other orchestras.”

Andai doesn’t only lead the violin section and act as a liaison between the conductor and the musicians “both diplomatically and musically” — he says of his role as concertmaster — but he lends his time to volunteering — writing grants, helping to fundraise, creating partnerships. “My role with the orchestra has grown and that’s because of my love for the city of Miami — it is my hometown.”

Speaking with anyone who is affiliated with the new MISO, there’s a sense of commitment to seeing Marturet’s vision realized. And while Klioumi has a different kind of partnership with the maestro — they’ve been married for 20 years — the self-proclaimed ambassador says she’ll be out campaigning for the orchestra in a concerted effort with her husband and others who have set out to make the Miami Symphony Orchestra recognized alongside other important major city orchestras.

“I believe in what he does in the community — and we have a lot of people who are devoting their time as ambassadors for the orchestra — to help it grow and flourish. We have all kinds of impresarios because they see the potential and the quality of love that’s being put into making this orchestra something Miami can be proud of.”

Hosting galas and brunches, along with other social events, is also important, she says, to creating a sense of community. “This is a way for us to connect personally with our audiences,” says Klioumi.

But when all is said and done, the maestro says all the “extras” don’t make a difference when the lights go down and the music comes up. “This is when we have to have a wonderful program, and in every moment, have something that each person in that audience can find to connect to. . . musicianship that makes them excited, that sticks with them when they leave, and programs that, ultimately, have stirred their passion, eager for what’s coming next.”

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Her name is Lola

Fashionista pianist opens MISO’s Grand Season of the Piano

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Pianist Lola Astanova couldn’t be a better fit for the forward-thinking Miami Symphony Orchestra and its 2014/2015 Grand Season of the Piano.

raise-the-baton-9The 29-year-old Russian-American pianist talks fashion — and, of course, music — when we speak about her upcoming performance with MISO on Oct. 5. Two years ago, she was named among the Top 10 Style Icons in Classical Music by Limelight, an Australian classical music and arts magazine. The magazine recalled when Astanova made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2012, wearing a shimmering gown, spike heels, and $850,000 worth of jewels on loan from Tiffany. One writer even dubbed her “The Lady Gaga of Classical Music.”

raise-the-baton-10“I’m a young woman who is interested in fashion, and I like to explore that. High fashion couture goes beautifully with classical music.”

She contemplates how classical music became associated with conservative dress. “Performers such as Rachmaninoff, Puccini, Chopin, Wagner — they were the dandies of society in their day — the celebrities, the entertainers, the trendsetters. They wore the most incredible tuxedos, and they wore gloves. I do view what I do as performance art, and it’s not supposed to be stale or boring.”

raise-the-baton-11Astanova believes it “only fair” to her audience to put effort into the visual aspect of her performance. “This night is a special event for the people who come to see the orchestra. The music will be dramatic, and the presentation aspect of it needs to match that.”

Her favorite designers are Chanel — “classicly elegant” — Emilio Pucci because of his edgy style, and Tom Ford: “I really admire how he combines timeless elegance and chic with a modern vibe.”

So how does Astanova select what she’ll wear whether she’s performing Rachmaninoff or “Rhapsody in Blue”? And what will be her choice for Miami?

“Well, it depends on the piece I’m playing, the city. I get inspired by those aspects — what I’m playing and even how I’m feeling that day. Miami is such a fashionable city, the weather is hot, the ocean; it’s a sexy place. Probably something sexy-edgy.”

I’m guessing it will be Pucci.

– Michelle F. Solomon

Astonova will perform with the Miami Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. at Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall in a program that will include Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27; Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 4;, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68.

MISO SEASON 2014/2015

GRAND SEASON OPENING
With Lola Astanova, piano
Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, and Brahms
Sunday, October 5 at 6 pm, Adrienne Arsht Center

THE BEATLES US INVASION: 50TH ANNIVERSARY
Sunday, Nov. 16 at 6 pm, Adrienne Arsht Center
Hyken, Breiner, and Marturet
Original works based on the Beatles by Eduardo Marturet, Composer-in-Residence Sam Hyken and “a little help from friends” of the New Birth Baptist Church.
Sunday, Nov. 16 at 6 pm, Adrienne Arsht Center

OCEAN DRIVE IN VIENNA
Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015 at 6 pm, Adrienne Arsht Center
Music from Vienna with a Latin twist of Overtures, Waltzes and Dances featuring the world premiere of Sam Hyken’s “Concertino for Toy Piano.

MISO FOR THE FAMILY
Saturday, Jan 24, 2015 at noon, Jungle Island
Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at 8 pm, Gusman (UM – Coral Gables)
Saint-Saëns
Any performance of a two-piano concerto is surely a treat, especially when it is one of Saint-Saëns most popular works – Carnival of the Animals, a brilliant and fun piece full of witty musical references that kids and families of all ages will enjoy.

YOUR VALENTINE DATE
Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at 6 pm, South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 at 8 pm, New World Center (Miami Beach)
Strauss, Addinsell, Debussy, Bernstein, and Marquez
Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra together with Brazilian pianist Linda Bustani exploit the seductive sounds of the waltz and the fiery flair of Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto.

SOUNDS FROM HOLLYWOOD
Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 6 pm, Adrienne Arsht Center
Enhanced with multimedia visual imagery from the big screen, “Sounds from Hollywood” features selections of popular film scores from Hollywood’s most prolific composers.

MOZ-ART
Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 6 pm, Wertheim (Miami)
Salieri, Mozart, and Desenne
Blind pianist Ignasi Cambra plays Mozart and joins guest conductor Daniel Andai in a special evening combining the roots of classical music alongside the parallel world of the visual arts.
Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 6 pm, Wertheim (Miami)
Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 6 pm, South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (Miami)

THE STEINWAY & SONS PIANO EXTRAVAGANZA
Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 6 pm, Adrienne Arsht Center
Grand finale with six pianos
Khachaturian – Piano Concerto in D-Flat Major, Op. 38 with Elisha Abas, piano
Mehmari – Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (world premiere) with Christopher O’Riley and André Mehmari, pianos
Mozart – Concerto No. 7 in F Major for Three Pianos and Orchestra, K. 242 with Roberto Berrocal, Ciro Fodere and Marina Radiushina, pianos
Liszt – Hexameron for Six Pianos and Orchestra with all 6 pianists.

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