The Salina Family conquered Ft. Lauderdale this month with a charm offensive launched at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in conjunction with the Symphony of the Americas.
Their chosen artillery was music, and they brought out the big guns: dual pianos and the powerful singing voice of Giulio Salani, who is 89. His children Barbara and Sergio were the dual pianists of a composition by their uncle Renato Salani, 91, who was also in the audience!
Giulio brought the audience jumping to its feet with a resounding version of Arrivederci Roma, the popular Italian song from 1955. Arrivederci, which means "until we see each other again", is a common Italian equivalent of "goodbye". The original lyrics express the nostalgia of a Roman man for the dinners and short-lived love affairs he had with foreign tourists who came to Rome.
One of the recording stars who made this song a hit was Connie Francis, who was in the audience for a portion of the concert on Oct. 14. She is a great icon for Ft. Lauderdale, with her big 1961 hit Where The Boys Are.
The composition by Renato is entitled Fantasia Venezolana. It was arranged for this performance by Sergio: his dual pianos with orchestra arrangement was a world premiere, having been arranged by Renato originally as four hands on one piano.
It worked extremely well. The pianos were not dueling against one another but rather sparring with one another. The core passage where the orchestra was silent lasted perhaps less than two minutes, but was a sheer delight.
The Fantasia is a medley of popular Venezuelan tunes, and at the beginning sounded like a Johann Strauss waltz- very flowing and lovely. The Viennese style soon morphed into a series of Spanish-style themes, concluding with Soul of the Plains (from 1914), widely regarded as the second national anthem of Venezuela.
The concert began with the Overture to Verdi’s opera La Forza del Destino, which offered the Symphony of the Americas a fine showcase for its talents. Its own Concertmaster Bogdan Chruszcz was placed centre stage for a superb performance of Autumn from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (1725), surely one of the most popular compositions of the 18th century still played by orchestras worldwide. And entirely appropriate for the first performance of the 27th season of the Symphony as it is now autumn.
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, by contrast, was the featured selection for Sergio. I found it a curious choice for a night celebrating Italian and Hispanic music as Gershwin was of Russian heritage. There must have been hundreds of other options to maintain the thematic character of the evening. On May 1 the Florida legislature passed a resolution that sets October of each year Italian Heritage Month in the state, and one of state senators who was key to this passage was on stage to talk about it before the concert.
While only a dedicated jazz pianist can attain the level of aesthetic sophistication required for a truly outstanding performance of the iconic work that Rhapsody in Blue has become, Sergio achieved a sufficiently able mastery of it to bring the audience to its feet.
His sister Barbara followed this performance with Rapsodica Sinfonica (opus 66) from 1931 by Joaquin Turina. Like several works, he wrote this one for the famed Spanish pianist Jose Cubiles (1894-1971).
Barbara embraced the fluidity of the piece with a butterfly flitting between buttercups. As it progresses, the Rapsodica’s demands on the pianist become ever greater as it leads the full string section to a rousing finale. Another crowd pleaser.
All photos copyright by Dr. C. Cunningham
Lead photo with this article: Giulio, Barbara and Sergio on stage with Artistic Director James Brooks-Bruzzese who is at centre stage behind the piano.
The next Symphony of the Americas concert will be held Nov. 9 at 2pm and Nov. 11 at 815pm. It’s featured theme is Cirque de la Symphonie.
Visit their website: symphonyoftheamericas.org