Fort Worth — The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra brought life and energy to four exquisite works over Veteran’s Day weekend through their collaboration with guest conductor Jacomo Bairos, music director of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, and the Sunday matinee performance was a solid end to their three-day run. The dance-inspired program pulled from the 19th and 20th centuries and represented staunchly emblematic sounds from central Europe, the U.S., and Mexico.
Bairos’ style was engaging and thoughtful, with an endearing sense of expression that translated beautifully through the orchestra’s execution. His full-bodied enthusiasm was fun to watch, but even more fun to listen to, as the FWSO and Bairos demonstrated a wholesome togetherness that served as a fitting tribute to the troops.
The program began with Frantz Listz’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in D minor, arranged by Franz Doppler. Set for full orchestra, the piece opened with its familiarly dramatic introduction from the brass section—moving starkly from a big, open major chord into the darker minor. Written in 1847, Listz’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 features two distinct sections: a slow lassú portion with sweeping, seductive melodies, and a faster fiska. Bairos’ interpretation here is filled with character, aided by a smartly executed solo from principle violin.
Following the rhapsody was the Oboe Concerto in D major, written by Richard Strauss in 1945. The German composer wrote the piece at the suggestion of an American GI, John de Lancie, at the end of WWII. De Lancie later went on to serve as Principle Oboe of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Set in three seamless movements, the concerto is demanding for the oboe soloist, but Jennifer Corning Lucio demonstrated ably that she was up to the task. With a pared-back orchestra, the concerto opens with an Allegro moderato movement that features a passage calling for nearly 60 measures of continuous phonation from Lucio. The line is declarative, virtuosic, and beautiful, and Lucio’s commitment to timbre and color comes through. It’s a good thing, though, that the orchestra is a scaled back for this piece, as there were brief moments of the soloist falling beneath the texture, but she more than made up for it through the athletic syncopation found in the piece’s third Vivace movement.
The second half of the performance featured what many were most anxious to hear—the suite from Aaron Copland’s 1944 Appalachian Spring (the 1945 orchestration). Originally composed as a ballet for the legendary American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, it is easy to be swept away by this piece as it paints a clear and engaging narrative about life in rural Pennsylvania in the early 19th century. The orchestra does well to evoke the quaint sort of charm of Copland’s original composition, which is set for only 13 instruments, however, the introduction was a bit over-tempo. Bairos’ leadership played a huge part in how convincingly the narrative came across. If one had closed one’s eyes, it would’ve been easy to imagine an entire plot from beginning to end.
Closing out the program was a rousing danzón by Mexican contemporary composer Arturo Márquez. Inspired by the popular music of his home country, his Danzón No. 2, written in 1994, is sexy and sultry, featuring distinctly Latin rhythms and a sensual solo from the first violin. Here, the FWSO is not only altogether precise, but it is clear that they also had a great time playing it. Bairos practically danced through his duties as conductor, finishing off the program with a fun and lively flourish.