Guest conductor Andrew Gourlay
Music and Opera reporting on is made possible by The University of North Texas College of Music.
Select the link below to discover more.

Review: The Firebird | Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra | Bass Performance Hall

Fired Up

Under the baton of guest conductor Andrew Gourlay, the Fort Worth Orchestra gave a beautiful performance of Stravinsky's The Firebird.

published Saturday, February 24, 2018

Photo: Jeff Fasano
Will Hagen


Fort Worth — Guest conductors are a gamble. Will they make the orchestra sound better than usual? Or worse? On Friday, under the baton of guest conductor Andrew Gourlay, the Fort Worth Symphony sounded—mostly—glorious.

The first half of the program began rather abruptly, with the Brahms Violin Concerto in D and soloist was 24-year-old William Hagen. He began his performing career, which has included previous FWSO appearances, as a teen, but a scruffy beard seems to signal that he’s shed his child prodigy trappings. The first movement of the Brahms, marked Allegro non troppo, got off to an uncertain start—both the orchestra and Hagen seemed unsure of what musical idea, exactly, they were trying to convey.

Photo: Johan Persson
Guest conductor Andrew Gourlay

In a piece performed this frequently, a sense of musical purpose is essential to keep even a very good performance from being the same old thing. But both orchestra and soloist hit their stride in the second movement—buoyed by a gorgeous oboe solo from Jennifer Corning Lucio, Hagen floated through the middle movement, marked Adagio, with absolute surety of phrasing, a stunning tone in his upper register, and a clear sense of purpose. The third movement, Allegro giocoso, just added to the effect. Splendid technical control and intonation in runs and double stops and just enough theatricality—a little knee bend to emphasize a phrase, for instance—made me long for an encore that didn’t come. Hagen is a fine violinist with the potential for an exceptional career.

The second half began more somberly than the first, with Rachmaninoff’s Dies Irae-punctuated “The Isle of the Dead.” This large scale orchestral work, with its nearly Impressionistic surges and atmospheric effects, is an interesting counterpoint to Stravinsky’s 1919 suite from The Firebird. In both, the orchestra’s playing was some of the best I’ve ever heard from this group. It wasn’t perfect: strings were occasionally untidy, and there were some momentary ensemble problems. But those were easily overlooked: the overall effect was a delight. Gourlay’s left-hand cues were sometimes a bit flappy, but his downbeat was clear and precise—a blessing in a conductor, but a blessing not always received. That precision contributed, I suspect, to the high quality of Friday’s performance.

In The Firebird, both the lyricism of the “Berceuse” and “Finale” and the drama and intensity of the “Infernal Dance” were spot on—the beginning of the Infernal Dance made people startle, as it should, though I was disappointed that no one actually screamed, as in this must-see (just trust me) video. Some individual performances were outstanding: Seth McConnell, tympani, Molly Norcross, horn, and especially Kevin Hall, bassoon, whose solo in the “Berceuse” was breathtakingly lovely.

There were some empty seats in Bass Hall Friday night, perhaps due to the cold and rainy weather. But those who stayed home missed out—this is an orchestra on the rise. Thanks For Reading

View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Fired Up
Under the baton of guest conductor Andrew Gourlay, the Fort Worth Orchestra gave a beautiful performance of Stravinsky's The Firebird.
by J. Robin Coffelt

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :