Fort Worth — Bass Performance Hall resounded with applause peppered with “Bravos!,” “Yays!,” a few “Woo-hoos!” and a wolf whistle. All of this was in response to the Fort Worth Symphony's Boléro concert Saturday, Oct. 3. Program selections were Concerto for Orchestra by Witold Lutoslawski; Les Nuits d’été (summer nights), Op. 7 by Berlioz; and Ravel’s Boléro. The lengthy standing ovation provided a huge button to an evening of outstanding symphonic performance. That is how the evening ended.
It began with conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya introducing the program to the audience and spending a few minutes giving them guideposts to follow as they listened. He explained the structure of Concerto for Orchestra while different sections of the orchestra played snippets of the principal motifs (themes). It was very much like listening to a demonstration of how to locate the thesis statement and themes in an essay, only through music instead. This preliminary conversation is a wonderful practice Fort Worth Symphony audiences have come to expect from this conductor.
The brass section was warmly commanding during the first movement of the concerto (Intrada). A very nice conversation occurred between the strings and winds during the second movement (Capriccio notturno e arioso. Vivace). Lutoslawski’s score provides interweaving melodic lines that scurry along quickly while avoiding any awkward collisions. The third and final movement (Passacaglia, toccata e corale) is tonally seductive creating a sense of magical realism. This is a challenging score with complex rhythms. The conductor and orchestra synced as one to create a powerful expression.
Mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne brought delicate elegance to Berlioz’ song cycle, Les nuits d’été (summer nights). This six-song cycle is based on poems by Théophile Gautier. Originally written for voice and piano, Berlioz was atypically private and silent regarding these works so an air of mystery surrounds them with no real answer to the question “why did he write these songs?” Boulianne’s graceful lyricism communicated the depth of reflection implied through the musical score.
For the closing number on the program, Ravel’s Boléro, Harth-Bedoya stood stilly on the podium facing the orchestra. The snare drum began the familiar “dum da-da-da dum da-da-da dum dum” rhythm. The flute entered, adding its bewitching melody and both moved forward very softly and steadily, collecting other instruments along the way. Harth-Bedoya, rather than conducting in the traditional way with a baton, shaped the sounds with occasional physical gestures that were smooth and much smaller than those required for the Lutoslawski. As the music grew in intensity his arms moved as if he were creating an air painting. It was fascinating to watch. The orchestra’s performance was stunningly beautiful. This familiar composition was again new and we were like children watching with wonder this alluring dance between the conductor and the orchestra.