The 2011-’12 season for the Fort Worth Symphony was announced on Sunday.
The FWSO usually starts out with some kind of festival, with a series of concerts over a weekend. This year it is a tribute to “The Pride of America” featuring the works of George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. While America is surely proud of these three composers, they represent just a “slice of Americana” (as the press release mentions) for so sweeping a title for the series.
The highlight of the series happen on Aug. 27, with Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms for Chorus and Orchestra and with Van Cliburn making a rare appearance to narrate Copland’s much trotted out Lincoln Portrait. Another treat will be a performance on Aug. 28 of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Shields-Collins Bray at the key board. Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya conducts all three concerts.
This season’s composer-in-residence is John B Hedges (no period after the B, thank you) and the symphony will present three of his works, including a world premiere. His credits include such unlikely companions as 2nd prize in the Florilege Vocal de Tours Choral Composition Competition for his piece, "Le Diapason d’Humeur" and continuing to play and record music with his Philadelphia-based funk band, Scrapple. The opening concert will feature his Slapdance. Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 is also on the program along with Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole with violinist Augustin Hadelich, who performed with the FWSO at Carnegie Hall in 2008
Oct. 7, 8, and 9 will feature Gustav Mahler’s much beloved Symphony No. 4 in G major to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death. Composer Sebastian Vergara’s Awakening of the Species will open the program.
On Nov. 4, 5, and 6 the FWSO will drop a hook in the over-fished waters of the rivalry between Antonio Salieri and Mozart, mostly invented for the play and Oscar-winning movie Amadeus. You can hear a symphony by both composers and judge for yourself. Pianist Alexander Ullman will play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. Later in November (18, 19, and 20), you can wallow in the unbridled romanticism of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s luscious Symphony No. 2. Richard Strauss contributes his Horn Concerto No. 1 with Mark Houghton doing the honors. The program (on Saturday and Sunday only) opens with John Adams’ The Chairman Dances from his opera Nixon in China.
Jan. 13-15 retreats to the tried-and-true with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, with Arnaldo Cohen at the keyboard while February brings some much anticipated pleasures.
On Feb. 2, 4, and 5 the FWSO will play Alexander Borodin’s rarely heard Symphony No. 2 in B minor and Prokofiev’s equally ignored Suite from Cinderella, Op. 87. Both are terrific pieces. Hedges will present his Fantasía sobre Yma Sumac for Clarinet and Orchestra with Victoria Luperi playing the solo part. She is a superb player and her appearance adds to the not-to-be-missed aspect of this program.
Mei-Ann Chen returns to guest conduct the orchestra in March (2-4). She was the super-athletic gymnast and ballerina whose airborne appearance with the orchestra in October 2009 greatly pleased some while horrifying others. How her antics will hold up while performing Cesar Frank’s very serious Symphony in D minor and Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor will tell the tale. Pianist Markus Groh will play the concerto.
Later in March (23-25) Harth-Bedoya returns to conduct Stravinsky’s Suite from the Firebird in its 1943 incarnation. Alisa Weilerstein will play Edward Elgar’s slightly dated but still lovely Cello Concerto in E Minor. For no apparent programmatic reason (other than Harth-Bedoya wants to conduct it), Bedřich Smetana’s The Moldau from Má Vlast opens the program (except on Friday evening). John B Hedges world premiere, Fastball, will also be on the program.
April takes us back in time again and leaves the adventurous behind. Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony is married to Anton Dvorak’s very finished Symphony No. 7 in D minor, arguably his best. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major will be played by the 19-year-old prodigy, Will Hagen.
Speaking of prodigies, Haochen Zhang, who is now at the ripe old age of 21, will close out the season playing Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. He was the youngest participant in the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition when he won the gold medal and his return, May 4-6, is eagerly awaited. Respighi’s splashy The Fountains of Rome and Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini fill out the program. If you go on Saturday or Sunday, you will be subjected to George Enescu’s shopworn Romanian Rhapsody in A Major.
As far as the pops concerts go, the Canadian Tenors will return in April and March brings all things Irish with A Celtic Celebration, step dancers, vocalists and instrumentalists. Other highlights of the Pops Series include Bugs Bunny at the Symphony; Wicked Divas, a concert of diva showstoppers from Broadway highlighted by selections from Wicked; Live and Let Die, a tribute to the timeless music of Paul McCartney; and Home for the Holidays.
Of course, Handel’s Messiah absolutely has to make an appearance in December (even though it is an Easter piece). This year it will performed on Dec. 5. Christmas is further celebrated when the great grandchildren of Maria and Captain von Trapp (of The Sound of Music fame) join the orchestra on Dec. 21.
While it may seem redundant to mention, Swingin’ in the New Year will take place on Dec. 31. Leann Rimes, local country singer who made good, will present a one-night only performance on Jan. 28, 2012.
Every year has a gala concert, and on April 17, 2012, Harth-Bedoya will conduct Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. No details on the soloists are available at this time, but the piece itself is enough of a draw to get your tickets way ahead. By the way, the FWSO just gave a performance to this piece in April. It will be quite interesting to see how Harth-Bedoya has grown in his approach over the ensuing time.