THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

Pianist Stewart Goodyear
Music and Opera reporting on TheaterJones.com is made possible by The University of North Texas College of Music.
Select the link below to discover more.

Review: Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Mendelssohn | Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra | Will Rogers Auditorium


Fast and Furious

The Fort Worth Symphony opened its season in a different theater, with conductor Patrick Summers and pianist Stewart Goodyear.



published Thursday, September 24, 2020

Photo: Opus 3 Artists
Conductor Patrick Summers

 

Fort Worth — The opening classical concert of the Fort Worth Symphony’s season on Sept. 18 was a moto perpetuo concert. Between the lickety-split programming and guest conductor Patrick Summers’ brisk tempi, we were treated to a cascade of fast notes for 90 minutes. It was all very exciting, but a bit exhausting by the end.

The concert was not in the usual venue of Bass Performance Hall, which is closed at least through the end of 2020. Instead it was in Will Rogers Auditorium, a general-purpose hall that was not designed specifically for a symphony orchestra (or not even like Bass, which is designed for opera, Broadway tours, and music with the orchestra shell). The FWSO did the best they could to create a makeshift and suitable venue. The back curtain was raised to expose the brick wall behind it. This would be more reflective of the sound than the deadening effect of the massive curtain.

The orchestra was about half of its usual size and appropriately spaced. The strings all wore masks. A wall of acrylic panels separated the winds from the strings and every player had their own microphone. So, it is relatively safe to assume that the music was subtlety amplified, although it was not all that noticeable in the audience. Whoever was in charge of that maze of mics did a magnificent job of managing them. The small audience was scattered around the seating area — Will Rogers has about 800 more seats than Bass Hall.

We got a taste of guest conductor Summers’ energetic manner of conducting the National Anthem that opens every FWSO concert. His tempo and no-nonsense approach made for a fresh experience and the audience gustily sang along.

Summers was just as lively when he started Rossini’s charming warhorse and perennial favorite, the overture to Rossini’s laugh-laden opera The Barber of Seville. It is full of slow starts and smooth accelerandi to a climax — over and over again. This is a perfect piece for Summers’ skills of relentlessly driving the music to its logical conclusion.

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 followed with the Canadian concert pianist and composer Stewart Goodyear. He is best known for playing the entire canon of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in a day-long marathon. Listening to his performance, it was no surprise to discover that he was a student of Glen Gould, whose steely fingers and precise way of playing was evident throughout Goodyear’s performance.

Minimal use of the sustaining pedal created a sparklingly clear performance with every note an island. His technical abilities appear to be limitless and all of the scales, which permeate the work, were a miracle of nimble fingers, speed and crystalline playing. Missing was a dash of French Romanticism that cumulated in Saint-Saens’ works.

The opening was faster than the marked andante sostenuto. In fact, the romantic theme, borrowed from his pupil Gabriel Fauré, was not properly lingered over as if he couldn’t wait to get to the technical fireworks. His technical brilliance and clarity of touch, required by this concerto, was certainly impressive. The pianist plays almost continuously throughout, but Goodyear didn’t appear to tire one bit.

Goodyear’s concept of tempi worked just fine in the scherzo, marked leggieramente, and the final presto, a saltarella (very fast Italian folk dance), was a fireworks show of notes and G-minor arpeggios. The audience gave him a huge ovation when it ended. However, it was a different piece than we are used to hearing. Thanks to Summers, the orchestra kept up.

Photo: Andrew Garn
Pianist Stewart Goodyear

Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, in the bright key of A major, known as the “Italian,” ended the 90-minute, intermissionless concert. As a composer, Mendelssohn was a strict traditionalist as opposed to his daredevil contemporaries like Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. His studies with Ludwig Berger, a former student of Muzio Clementi, gave his music a heavy flavor of J. S. Bach.

Mendelssohn’s music is often a run-on sentence and so it is with this symphony, especially in the hands of Summers. His tempi throughout were quite fast.

The first movement, marked allegro vivace, was almost as fast as the last movement, marked presto. The winds got the first challenge, with their fast and tongued 16th note chordal accompaniment to the bouncing theme, which needed a little more room to bounce.

The second movement gave us a respite. Summers gave it all the space it needs to sing its solemn song and the viola section was absolutely terrific. The third movement is a minuet, which was already out of style when this piece premiered. The horn section got their chance the shine in the trio and did a nice job of it. The last movement is a tarantella, a frantic and fast folk dance of ancient origins (it was thought that the bite of the tarantula caused such a frenzy). Speed is required in this movement and Summers took that advice to heart. It was very fast indeed. Kudos to all of the players, especially the strings, for keeping up.

Summers is best known for his work as artistic and music director of the Houston Grand Opera, which he raised to international standards, and a stint as principal guest conductor with the San Francisco Opera. He nabbed a degree from Indiana University, famous for its opera program, and was in the San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program as an apprentice coach in the late 1980s.

A guest appearance at the Metropolitan Opera launched him to the top of the list of superstar opera conductors around the world. His fach may be opera, but he is equally at home on the symphonic podium, as he ably demonstrated on Sept. 18. Most importantly, he is an avid promoter of living composers.

Summers is a refreshing conductor. He is a bit wild with his gestures, but he is always enveloped in the music. He is excessive, effusive, energetic and effective. He eschews classic podium technique for his own way of communicating with his baton, but he is in complete control of every note. He knows exactly what he wants to do with it. Thus, he creates the whole work organically:  We start here, take a musical journey, and we end here.

Most importantly, it works splendidly. The reduced orchestra responded to his every move and gesture. He was right with pianist Goodyear — no easy job in his flashy dash through Saint-Seans’ finger-busting second piano concerto — all the way.

Perhaps we can hope for him to take on the currently vacant musical directorship of FWSO. Thanks For Reading





View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Fast and Furious
The Fort Worth Symphony opened its season in a different theater, with conductor Patrick Summers and pianist Stewart Goodyear.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
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
audiocasts
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
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
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:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
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 :
Submit