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Reviews

Opera reviews link directly online to complete articles.  Composition reviews, which begin further down this page, hyperlink to excerpted text or full articles closer to the bottom of this page.  Return to the top of this page by hitting your browser’s back button.  Audio examples of many of these reviewed works can be heard from the Audio Samples Page.

 

OPERAS

Elixir of Love - December 2007    …St. Petersburg Opera, Mark Sforzini, Artistic Director & Conductor

'Elixir of Love' puts audience under its spell

Published December 30, 2007
by Marty Clear, Times Correspondent

La Bohème - June 2007         …St. Petersburg Opera, Mark Sforzini, Artistic Director & Conductor

Opera Hits a High Musical Standard (PDF)

St. Petersburg Times
Published June 10, 2007
by John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic

Die Fledermaus - December 2006   …produced by the Palladium Theater, Mark Sforzini, Artistic Director & Conductor

It's all a big party at operetta

St. Petersburg Times
Published December 30, 2006
by John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic

The incredible lightness of 'Die Fledermaus'

St. Petersburg Times
December 28, 2006
by John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic

The Barber of Seville - June 2006    …produced by the Palladium Theater, Mark Sforzini, Artistic Director & Conductor

Believing in ‘The Barber’

St. Petersburg Times
June 1, 2006
by John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic

Great Cast Makes this ‘Barber’ fun

St. Petersburg Times
June 4, 2006
by John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic

ARTICLES

 

St. Petersburg Times "Opera With Up-tempo Attitude"

Creative Loafing advance story and photo 6/6/07 (PDF)

St. Petersburg Times special interest story 6/10/07 (PDF)

The St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival February 2006

 

COMPOSITIONS

Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet (2008) …read review online: “Chamber Music Delivers Delights” 

Triple Concerto (2007) …read review online: “Encore Concerto Worthy of an Encore” 

Romanza (2004)  …read review online: “Florida Orchestra’s Enjoyable Coffee Break” 

Call Again Overture (2004)

Octet (2004, 2003, 2002)

Sextet for Winds and Bass (2006)

Symphony for Seven (2005)

Remembrance Upon a Midnight Hour

Two American Sketches

Rhapsody for Flute and Bassoon

 

 

Call Again Overture

 

October 3, 2004            Strauss, Mozart Color Orchestra’s Opening Concert

by Kurt Loft, Tampa Tribune

 

“Opening night was all about music, and Sanderling struck hard and loud with the national anthem, then the “Call Again Overture” by principal bassoonist Mark Sforzini.  This percolating new work, beautifully constructed by the young composer, seemed to tip its hat to Gershwin’s “American in Paris” and packed a thrill ride into four fleeting minutes.”

 

October 3, 2004    Orchestra kicks off season in fine style

by John Fleming, St. Petersburg Times

 

“There was even a new work, “a little surprise…a present,” in the words of music director Stefan Sanderling, the Call Again Overture, composed by principal bassoon Mark Sforzini, which the orchestra played unannounced, right after the obligatory season-opening Star-Spangled Banner.   Sforzini’s four-minute piece, a brightly syncopated bauble on the cell phone theme, punctuated by slide whistle, suited the celebratory occasion perfectly.  It was reminiscent in its energy and wit of Bernstein’s Candide Overture.”

 

Octet

 

Orchestra performs colleague’s melodious work

St. Petersburg Times

John Fleming

 

“Sforzini, who has had two other pieces played by the orchestra, is an unabashed melodist, building his Octet around what he calls the “song of the meadow”.  It’s a serene, joyful tune in D major traded among a wind quartet and string quartet in many variations over three movements.”

 

“The Octet is very much an orchestra player’s work, passing around the instrumental spotlight in democratic fashion. It’s not without complexity and a certain droll unpredictability… but it never strays far from the main theme, which has the lilt of a Viennese Waltz with just a touch of decay to keep the material from becoming saccharine.  The program note likens it to the chamber music of Poulenc, and that seems about right.  The influence of a Beethoven Septet is also felt.   The orchestra principals, who premiered the 22-minute Octet in a 2003 chamber music performance, were at their best in the third movement sonata, bringing a flair to the infectious melody.”

 

Bassoonist’s New Work Stands Up to Beethoven

by Kurt Loft

Tampa Tribune

 

“The 22-minute Octet is in three movements and keeps listeners involved through a creative development of sunny D major themes, rich textures and colors, and a transparency that lets each instrument blend but stand on its own.”

 

“…kudos to the composer for a work full of fresh lyricism and a mature sense of form.”

 

Sense of joy pervades new theater’s opening

by John Fleming

St. Petersburg Times

 

“The theater is named for Ray Murray, a businessman and former chairman of the Florida Orchestra, and his wife, Nancy.  For the occasion, the Murrays commissioned an octet by composer Mark Sforzini, principal bassoon of the orchestra, who performed the work along with seven of his first-chair colleagues. Sforzini likened aspects of his three-movement 21-minute work to “the song of the meadow,” or to a mountain hike, and it did have a lovely serenity and sense of joy, with a prominent, lively part for the orchestra’s excellent concertmaster, Amy Schwartz Moretti.”

 

Follow the money trail

by John Fleming

St. Petersburg Times

Dedember 25, 2003

 

“The best new music [2003] was heard in Mark Sforzini’s Octet, premiered by orchestra’s principals in the Palladium Theater’s exemplary Encore Series…”

 

Sextet for Winds and Bass

 

An anniversary present full of joyful music

by John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic

Published February 2, 2006

 

“The Sextet, running about 20 minutes in four movements, has Sforzini’s gift for melody.  It is built upon a lively theme that begins, fittingly, with the clarinet and then is embellished and elaborated upon by the others.”

link to full review

 

Symphony for Seven

 

Symphony premiere has French flavor

By JOHN FLEMING, Times Performing Arts Critic
Published April 21, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - Mark Sforzini must have been French in another life, judging from the premiere Tuesday night of his Symphony for Seven, performed by the Florida Orchestra Chamber Players (with the composer on bassoon) as part of the Encore series at the Palladium Theater. The Frenchness of Sforzini's four-movement work, running about 35 minutes, is a matter of more than just its quotation of La Marseilles.

The influence of Poulenc or Milhaud or Stravinsky in his French period seemed palpable in the insouciant melodies, the somewhat unusual instrumentation (piano, violin, viola, cello, oboe, clarinet and bassoon), the eclectic mix of styles that included honky-tonk piano and the lean textures, especially in some sublime woodwind writing.

The rest of the program reinforced the French theme, with Francaix's fiendishly busy Wind Quintet No. 1 and a pair of virtuoso violin pieces, Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo capriccioso and the Meditation from the Massenet opera Thais, beautifully played by Ellen dePasquale. The concert drew a large, engaged crowd, including many people who supported the Encore commission of Sforzini's composition.

There's a political angle to the Symphony for Seven, suggested in a program note and made explicit by dueling snippets of the French and U.S. national anthems (perhaps a tip of the stylistic hat to Ives), representing disagreement over the Iraq war. There's little doubt as to which side of the debate this chamber symphony comes down on, notably in the potent third movement, marked Adagio lamentoso, depicting the misery of war through extended techniques like skittering bows on strings. James Connors on cello, the most melancholy of instruments, was superbly expressive.

Sforzini, the orchestra's principal bassoon, had an earlier success with his Octet. That tuneful work was widely performed in the community and made it onto an orchestra masterworks program. Now he has taken a giant step forward with the Symphony for Seven, which is complex and intellectually satisfying yet retains the innate sweetness that makes his music so listenable.

 

Rhapsody for Flute and Bassoon

 

1997 International Double Reed Society Journal

by Ronald Klimko

 

“This is a beautiful piece of modern music.  Some of you might have been fortunate enough to hear it performed by Mark Sforzini himself on the bassoon, along with flutist, Catherine Wendtland-Landmeyer at the last IDRS conference in Tallahassee last June…..The music comes with a full score, along with two beautifully cross-cued separate parts….I strongly recommend this work to you as a beautiful, exciting and skillfully written piece of modern music worth reaching a wide audience.”

 

Two American Sketches

 

American Lyrique

by Thomas Josenhans

The Clarinet, volume 30, number 4

September 2003

 

Two American Sketches for clarinet and English horn by Mark Sforzini is a great addition to this disc.  Sforzini has been principal bassoonist of the Florida Orchestra since 1992, and has written several works for wind instruments.  The sketches were commissioned by [Karen] Dannessa and Henry Grabb.  The combination of English horn and clarinet is rarely heard outside of the orchestral setting, and the resulting sound is refreshing.  Grabb’s and Dannessa’s playing truly complements each other, and their musical maturity is revealed in their excellent ensemble.  The work is made up of two contrasting movements: “Song of the Prairie” and “Atlantic City Rock.”  The first overly exploits the personality of each instrument and is reminiscent of the “Largo” of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  “Atlantic City Rock” is a stark contrast: it is a funkier movement that has a groove found nowhere else on this disc.  Both humorous and clever, one cannot help but imagine two mischievous students sneaking around looking for a good time.  The only criticism of these sketches is that there are only two.  Sforzini obviously has a great imagination, and it would be great to hear what else he could cook up for the English horn and clarinet.”

 

Purchase the CD:

http://tundradogsmusic.com/CD.htm

 

St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival

Gaining its composure

When the curtain goes up this week on the first St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival, no one will suspect that the ambitious endeavor was in disarray a few months ago.

By JOHN FLEMING, Times Performing Arts Critic
Published January 29, 2006

 

http://www.sptimes.com/2006/01/29/Floridian/Gaining_its_composure.shtml

 


ST. PETERSBURG - Mark Sforzini remembers the first time he heard the idea of having a chamber music festival in St. Petersburg. "It sounded like a great idea, and it sounded like a lot of work," said Sforzini, a composer and the principal bassoon in the Florida Orchestra.

Little did Sforzini know how much work the idea - originally suggested by the orchestra's associate conductor, Susan Haig - would mean for him. The St. Petersburg Chamber Music Festival, which makes its debut this week, was originally taken on as a project of the Palladium Theater under executive director Mark Spano. The Palladium continues to be central to the event, presenting the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in an all-Mozart program Friday night, but Spano is no longer there. He resigned in early December, leaving much of the work for the festival undone.

"It became a huge amount of work in December," said Sforzini, the festival committee chair. "There was no sponsor, no system for ticket sales, no program book."

The festival may have been in disarray two months ago, but you couldn't tell that now. Sforzini and Dar Webb, interim executive director at the Palladium, and other committee members scrambled to pull things together.

Underwritten by an anonymous sponsor, the festival has an excellent program book and other marketing material with information about all its events, five concerts at five venues plus two master classes. The proceedings begin tonight with an open rehearsal of the Quantum Winds, including Sforzini and other principal players in the orchestra, at Studio@620 Tickets for all the concerts can be bought at the Palladium.

The festival programming was anchored by a pair of concerts that were booked early: the Palladium's presentation of the acclaimed Lincoln Center ensemble, featuring violinist Ani Kavafian and pianist Wu Han; and Sunday afternoon's performance by flutist Gary Schocker and guitarist Jason Vieaux at the Museum of Fine Arts.

"It seemed sort of effortless the way the programming came together," Sforzini said. "We wanted it to be diverse, and the programs all just sort of complemented each other."

The Mozart program, including a piano trio and quartet, and sonata for piano, four hands, ties in nicely with the anniversary of the composer's 250th birthday. Schocker and Vieaux will play works of Vivaldi, Ibert and Debussy, as well as Schocker's Once Upon a . . . .

The festival has three premieres. Monday night, Duncan MacMillan's Serenade for violin and piano will be performed on a program by MacMillan and violinist Catherine McGlasson at Lewis House on the Eckerd College campus. The duo will also play works of Delius, Kreisler, Debussy and Scott Joplin.

The Quantum Winds, playing Wednesday night at Studio@620 will give the first performance of two works. El problema de viajar by Dee Moses, principal double bass with the orchestra, is for chamber ensemble and dance by his wife, choreographer Elsa Valbuena.

Sforzini's Sextet for Winds and Bass is the other new work on the Quantum agenda. It was commissioned in honor of group member Brian Moorhead, the orchestra's principal clarinet, by his wife, Marian, for their 30th wedding anniversary. Quantum's all-American program also includes music by Morton Gould, Michael Curtis and Gunther Schuller.

Another American composer, Norman Dello Joio, is the focus of Thursday night's concert at the St. Petersburg College Music Center. A Fable, The Bluebird and other Dello Joio works for chamber chorus will be performed by the SPC Madrigalians, conducted by Vernon Taranto Jr. There will also be a selection of instrumental works by Dello Joio, 93, winner of the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for music. Taranto will lead a master class on Dello Joio Thursday afternoon.

Each of the five festival venues has merits, including the superb acoustics of the Music Center, the elegance of the museum's Marly Room and the openness of Studio@620's storefront gallery. "I think we have the perfect, intimate venues for chamber music," Sforzini said.

The Barber of Seville – June 2006

 

Believing in ‘The Barber’

St. Petersburg Times

June 1, 2006

by John Fleming

http://www.sptimes.com/2006/06/01/Floridian/Believing_in__The_Bar.shtml

 

Great Cast Makes this ‘Barber’ fun

St. Petersburg Times

June 4, 2006

by John Fleming

 

Link to this June 4, 2006 review of the opening night performance