Eduardo Marturet & the Miami Symphony Orchestra make sonic & visual waves

If you hear the words symphonic orchestra, I’m pretty sure parrots, flashy shoes, and Blues or Salsa rhythms are not very likely to come to mind.…

Conductor Eduardo Marturet is the brilliant mind who thinks outside the box as the Maestro for the Miami Symphony Orchestra, MISO for short. (Photo Courtesy: Eduardo Marturet/MISO)

If you hear the words symphonic orchestra, I’m pretty sure parrots, flashy shoes, and Blues or Salsa rhythms are not very likely to come to mind.

For the last nine years, under the lead of conductor Eduardo Marturet, the Miami Symphonic Orchestra (MISO) has pushed the boundaries of symphonic music as part of an innovative programing philosophy that aims to attract bigger and more consistent audiences.

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The fact is that Miami’s development as a great metropolis has outpaced its cultural growth by far. Just as with sports teams, festivals, and tourism, we can’t talk about a major international city without the presence of world-class Opera, Ballet, and a symphonic orchestra.

During the surge of recession, many of MISO’s contributors cut their sponsorship. The orchestra went through a financial struggle that still hasn’t healed to this day. There were times in which money wasn’t available to pay the musicians, including the orchestra conductor.

Along with the weather and the city’s ethnic configuration, Marturet says this has made harder for the orchestra to grow its audience at the desired rate.

“Miami still can’t absorb an intense concert schedule, unlike cities like Boston, New York, or Chicago,” said Marturet. “The city has ideal characteristics for other type of activities like outdoor festivals, dancing, and partying.”

His mission has been to project the orchestra internationally while still creating a solid local audience. Most great orchestras around the world develop locally first: “This orchestra mirrors the city. It’s just like Miami itself and has a tremendous potential to transform,” the maestro added.

Miami Symphony Orchestra’s concert season

MISO’s local concert season typically spans from October to May with a maximum of two to three performances per month. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes brilliant minds to take a symphonic orchestra to world-class level: Marturet’s artistic vision has been key to draw the public’s attention towards the concerts.

He has come out with all sorts of ideas. They changed their traditional concert “The Night in Vienna” into “Ocean Drive in Vienna.” The concept is to play pieces that would represent Miami if they are to play in Vienna. The show program includes pieces like “Danube Blues” which fuses Strauss’s “The Blue Danube” with American Blues, and “Pizzi Cuban Polka” in which the famous “Pizzicato Polka” gradually changes into a Cuban Salsa. For last year’s version of this piece, virtuoso Salsa singer Oscar D’Leon joined the orchestra.

(Photo Courtesy: The Miami  Symphony Orchestra)

Salsa legend Oscar D’Leon joined the Miami Symphony Orchestra for one of its concerts. To his right is Maestro Eduardo Marturet flanked by tropical birds. (Photo Courtesy:Eduardo Marturet/MISO)

Maestro Marturet has gone as far as inviting CNNes anchor Ismael Cala to conduct a piece, or performing a concertino for toy piano and orchestra. MISO offers an annual concert with versions of The Beatles classics to commemorate the arrival of the greatest band of all times to the U.S. through Miami in 1964. The orchestra is preparing for something no one has done before in symphonic music, a concert for six pianos and orchestra programed for June this year.

But his concept transcends from the musical to the visual aspect of the show. MISO concerts have been accompanied by digital projections. They can also actively involve its members. Maestro Marturet has conducted with parrots on his shoulders in a unique move difficult to anticipate.

The orchestra and its leader are known by wearing colorful unique shoes on stage bending the traditionalism of dressing for performing symphonies. “The famous shoe designer Donald Pliner asked us to wear his shoes on stage and gave me special pairs. I change my shoes multiple times during a show,” Marturet said.

MISO is definitely moving forward in all aspects — coming out of the tough period it suffered during the recession. The acquisition of great leaders such as concertino concert master Daniel Andai and first horn Hector Rodriguez strengthened sections that were weaker in the past, making the assembly more balanced.

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The orchestra is finally having new headquarters for rehearsals and special concerts at Mana in Wynwood, a flourishing area of the city internationally known by its cultural vibrancy.

The Venezuelan conductor, who debuted with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar of Caracas in 1978 and conducted the Berlin Symphonic Orchestra for 10 years, has a long-term vision for MISO. He is working for making Miami’s orchestra one the best in the world within the next 50 years. He is already preparing his successor for when he is no longer an active part of it. “We have to see MISO with the right magnitude. Miami doesn’t deserve less than a great orchestra,” he said.