Fort Worth — For those wishing that classical concerts presented pieces with some hummable tunes, the Fort Worth Symphony’s current offering fits the bill. Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya spun out one beautiful melody after another on Friday night in Bass Hall.
The program opener is better known as a program closer: Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance Military March No. 1 in D-major, Op. 39. It is impossible to even venture a guess of how many graduating students solemnly marched forward to receive diplomas to the regal strains of the melody that makes up the central trio section, but that number would be transcendental.
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E-minor, Op. 64, is one long study in lush melodic outpourings and the young virtuoso violinist Augustin Hadelich used his rich tone and precise intonation to great advantage.
It is not one of the great virtuosic vehicles that allows violinists to display the fireworks that their nimble fingers can launch. This is not to say that it doesn’t present some considerable difficulties, because it does, but any decent high school-level player can give it a presentable reading. (Grieg’s piano concerto shares a similar fate.)
As a result, violinists go for pyrotechnics by adding some Presto pesto. As did Hadelich.
Hadelich started out modestly enough, making no big fuss over Mendelssohn’s triadic tune. However, once the pace switched from doubles to triplets, Hadelich took off running way past what you could call rushed. Harth-Bedoya managed to keep up, but the character of the music changed from Mendelssohn’s energetic eloquence to Paganini’s pyro-flamboyance.
The other noticeable problem with Hadelich’s interoperation was his failure to breathe with the phrases. Even Mendelssohn’s most non-stop materials, of which there is an abundance in his oevre, have a vocal bent. Just because the bow doesn’t need to breathe doesn’t mean that the music shouldn’t. These few details marred what was otherwise a carefully thought-out performance.
Hadelich was more in his element in his encore: Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 for solo violin. Like all the caprices in the series, this one is an astounding display of jaw-dropping technical prowess, and Hadelich has the goods.
While Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3, Op. 44, doesn’t have the soaring eloquence of his better-known second symphony, this later work has its own beauties to display. Oddly, this symphony, written much later in the composer/pianist’s career, abounds in fresher and more youthful tunes than we find in his earlier effort.
Harth-Bedoya said that he first performed Rachmaninoff’s third symphony many decades ago (he must have been a child if that is not an exaggeration), and was just returning it now. This is a wise decision on his part because the piece fits him like a neoprene suit. In lesser hands, the third symphony can remind you of a second brew samovar of Russian Caravan tea made with exhausted leaves.
Such was not the case on Friday.
Harth-Bedoya understands that Rachmaninoff put his previously opulent 19th-century romanticism on a 20th-century diet. This leaner version of romanticism makes good use of the composer’s technical brilliance in organizing the music and motivic unity.
Harth-Bedoya revealed the Russianness of the work with a close attention to the dance rhythms and longing melodic material without losing the innate melancholia so important to all Russian composers.
An interesting aside: Rachmaninoff wrote this symphony right after finishing his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini for piano and orchestra, based on the violinist’s 24th caprice that we just heard as Hadelich’s encore.