Fort Worth — Sunday's concert by the Fort Worth Symphony, the final installment of the 2015 Classical Masters Festival, was worth every ounce of the energy spent fighting the unusually heavy Sunday traffic in order to experience it. Exhilarating, sometimes funny, delightful, and almost overwhelmingly beautiful, the performances by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, pianist Gustavo Miranda-Bernales, and the orchestra made the afternoon's pain (the traffic, again) more than worthwhile.
The concert opened with Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b, is so-called because it was written as a possible introduction to the composer's only opera, Fidelio, originally to be entitled Leonore. The No. 3 is actually a considerably extended reworking of the Leonore Overture No. 2, and the story behind the shuffle of overtures to, titles for, and versions of the opera is too complicated to go into here. Suffice it to say that this is the most popular of the four overtures Beethoven wrote for Fidelio in the course of trying stage the show to everyone's satisfaction.
To say that Sunday's performance of the Leonore No. 3 was satisfactory would be a lie. It provided the first of the day's many exhilarating moments, due in part to the unusually brisk tempo of the main Allegro, and in part to the orchestra's being entirely equal to its challenge.
The appearance of Gustavo Miranda-Bernales in a performance of Haydn's Keyboard Concerto No. 11 in D major was my first exposure to the Chilean-born pianist, despite his recent appearance in the area at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. His execution of the first movement might not have been exactly how Haydn envisioned it, but Haydn would undoubtedly have recognized a fellow musician's artistic vision at work—one, I daresay, he would have applauded as successful. He might have raised an eyebrow at Miranda-Bernales’ use of the pedal (and especially its effect on some of the movement's rapid passagework), but I can't imagine he would not have approved. And the pianist's evident enjoyment of the finale, marked rondo all’Ungherese—basically "Hungarian-style Rondo"—was infectious.
How could the audience not smile when the soloist is himself practically laughing at the playful tossing-about of the material in this work? Apart from a possible communication problem between conductor and pianist at one of the seams in the slow movement, the entire concerto was carried off with polish and considerable wit.
The closing work on the program was Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C major, the almost too-familiar “Jupiter” Symphony. It, too, was an absolute blast, from the opening unison gesture to the closing fugue, with its tangle of themes gathered from throughout the movement. Even the minuet was full of kicks, despite one problematic entrance from the otherwise magnificent horns.
Blast that it was, its performance brought me to a realization: I have avoided concerts devoted to standard-repertoire works, the sole source of fuel for the Classical Masters Festival, for most of my adult life. I have allowed recordings to persuade me that I know a work, when what I have heard in those recordings is more properly regarded as a fossil, the residue of a performance, and sometimes the composite residue of several. Often it's excellent residue, but still a fossil. Live performance is what this music was built for, a lesson Maestro Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony have taught me.
To Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, I say, "gentlemen, I'll see you at next year's festival, if not before."