Fort Worth Symphony preps for DC trip with offbeat and compelling program

Sat Apr 07, 2018 at 1:15 pm
By Wayne Lee Gay

Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducted the Fort Worth Symphony in music of Clyne, Bernstein and Lopez Friday night.

Two contemporary works and one twentieth-century masterpiece came together for an innovative, unfailingly intriguing, and beautifully performed concert by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and music directory Miguel Harth-Bedoya Friday night at Bass Performance Hall.

Preparing for its close-up moment in the national spotlight next Tuesday at the SHIFT Festival of American Orchestras at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Fort Worth Symphony is first putting its best foot forward for the hometown audience. The presence of one of the great violin soloists of our time, two leading composers, and a major choreographer provided an even greater level of cachet to the event.

        The evening opened with Rift, a work by British-born, U.S.-based composer Anna Clyne, written in collaboration with choreographer Kitty McNamee for the Cabrillo Festival. With the stage extended forward, an ensemble of six dancers from Texas Ballet Theater performed in front of the orchestra, automatically giving the evening a different sort of feeling. Even in this dance-focused work, Clyne boldly pushes the symphonic tradition forward, opening with a serene quasi-pavane, rich with neo-Renaissance cadence. From there, Clyne moves seamlessly into Glass-style minimalism and, thence, beyond that into muscular dissonance, while wavering into moments that evoke Ravel and Rimsky-Korsakov. The dancers—bare-chested males and gossamer-clad females—likewise shifted easily from floor-bounded, angular modern dance to moments reminiscent of Balanchine and Bolshoi.

        Though the dancers—lively with personality and aplomb—necessarily held the spotlight, the orchestra and Harth-Bedoya maneuvered with clean, taut precision through the rapidly shifting terrain of this score; the enthusiastic audience response portends a work that, with its unique but manageable configuration, could be a welcome addition to the symphonic repertoire.

        After intermission, violinist Augustin Hadelich joined Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra for Bernstein’s Serenade. Although Serenade has not, in the sixty years since its premiere, gained a firm foothold in the concerto repertoire, Hadelich and Harth-Bedoya made a strong case for the piece, crafting a flawless interplay of the soloist and orchestra of strings and percussion. With the mid-twentieth-century battle of styles long past, Bernstein’s deliberately conservative harmonic idioms and extravagant lyricism hold up beautifully, along with his uncanny sense of orchestration; in spite of the lofty references to ancient Greek philosophy, the flavors of Candide and West Side Story abound, in a good way.

        Once again, the orchestra was in top form, while Hadelich brought his characteristic combination of calm, not-quite-understated lyricism and emotional intensity. Within an unfailingly fine performance, the mostly quiet Adagio fourth movement provided a breathtaking performance as Hadelich held forth in Bernstein’s gloriously sustained phrases.

        The final work on the program, Peruvian-born Jimmy Lopez’s three-movement Bel Canto: A Symphonic Canvas, premiered in Atlanta in March, drawn from Lopez’s opera of the same name, which debuted at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2015. The opera was based on Ann Patchett’s novel of the same name, which was inspired by the siege and hostage crisis at the Japanese embassy in Lima in 1996.

Lopez here calls on a traditional harmonic language and the aggressive use of a large, Straussian orchestra; the most memorable moment arrives in the middle section of the second movement, as a spooky, plaintive tune emerges from the oboe and gradually moves from one solo instrument to another. Lopez occasionally lapses into the predictably grandiose upward modulation of the sort that accompanies the launching of a mammoth space ship in a sci-fi movie; the orchestra and Harth-Bedoya pulled off this generally noisy score with the requisite combination of finesse and muscle, and the audience responded with loud approval.

The program will be repeated 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Bass Performance Hall. 817-665-6000;

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