Fort Worth — The Fort Worth Symphony presented a terrific concert on Friday evening and, now safely under a long-delayed contract, certainly proved its value to the Metroplex. The orchestra was in top form and Musical Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s transformation into a fine conductor continues to amaze. The difference between concerts they presented, even a few years ago, and this exceptional performance, was noticeable, to say the least.
In an era in which performers are hesitant to include a work by a living composer, one of the FWSO’s innovative programs is the opposite. They bring in a composer every year for a residency and explore their recent output. Such was the case on Friday when they played Adam Schoenberg’s tone poem, La Luna Azul (The Blue Moon).
There are a couple of Schoenbergs in the history of what we call classical music. The first (Arnold) was the founder of the Second Viennese school and is forever damned by audiences for inventing the 12-tone system of composition, which shattered the tonal system for decades. This Schoenberg (Adam) writes in an eclectic version of tonality forged from the music that surrounds him: lush and complex harmonies drawn from jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms (that he calls “groove”), minimalism, mixed meters, pulsating percussion, blazing brass and fast-moving strings.
All these elements made an appearance in La Luna Azul. This 15-minute work captured the attention of the audience right out of the gate. We were all with him through the mood changes until we reached his tranquil ending, with a rocking motion that is enhanced by the canted use of a five-eighths meter. And why not? This piece was inspired by the “love at first sight” nature of his marriage.
The big surprise was an astonishing performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor by the twenty-something Russian violinist Alexandra Soumm with a precise and empathic partnership delivered by Harth-Bedoya.
Right from the beginning, she struck out on her own as far as interpretation goes. The opening soloist’s passage is layered over a gauzy noodling in the muted strings and is marked mezzo-forte. Soumm entered with a barely audible ghostly sound, achieved by eschewing vibrato and using very little bow pressure. It didn’t take her long to achieve the composer’s mezzo-forte but, in her hands, the violin was part of the mist that hangs on Finland’s rugged and vacant landscape.
After that, almost everything she played slightly differed from the “standard” performance (if there is such a thing). The gorgeous lyrical passages eventually burst into fiery virtuosity. Her performance of this beloved concerto will surely change as her career progresses, but this youthfully unique reading was memorable.
The program ended with a suite from Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella. This was not one of the familiar suites; it was assembled by Harth-Bedoya. Fifty sections were reduced to 13, but unlike the other suites, Harth-Bedoya assembled the sections in a manner that would make the narrative more apparent to the listener.
Of course, this is the problem with playing ballet music on the concert stage. The music cannot be successfully divorced from the dance. This is a fate that is not shared by concert performances of opera, in which singers emote onstage and supertitles give a translation. However, in a ballet without the dancers, the audience is left guessing as to what is going on. Supertitles, even if just for the titles of the sections, would help.