Fort Worth — As the Fort Worth Symphony fights for its life through a series of contract negotiations and financial perils, I confess, I am not neutral.
You see, the Fort Worth Symphony changed my life.
When I was a child, a quirky, violin-playing, classical-music-loving child, growing up in Arlington, Texas, I felt like the only person in the world who preferred Mozart to Def Leppard. At the time, strings program students received “C-notes,” coupons for $1 tickets to hear the Fort Worth Symphony. Almost always, when I received these coupons, I was able to persuade my mother to drive me to Fort Worth to hear the orchestra play, then in the Fort Worth Convention Center. Hearing a real, professional orchestra play live was, and remains, thrilling. (And seeing that there were other people, and plenty of them, who loved Mozart as much as I did was reassuring.) The love of music I developed partly as a result of those “C-note” tickets has become one of the most sustaining, enriching parts of my life.
And the orchestra has only gotten better in the 30 years since.
Friday night, the Bass Performance Hall audience whooped and hollered its approval not only for violinist Midori, but for the orchestra, conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, as well. Aaron Copland’s Three Dance Episodes from Rodeo? Cheers and bravos. Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture? Ditto. Gershwin’s An American in Paris? The crowd loved it.
This is an orchestra that deserves to live. And the members deserve livelihoods. Both the orchestra’s future and the member’s livelihoods are currently imperiled, however. So if you want more opportunities to deliver multiple standing ovations to Fort Worth’s orchestra, folks, help them out. Support them with money or time or whatever you have to offer, but support them. And do it soon.
The Fort Worth Symphony excels in its performances of American music—its Copland Three Dance Episodes was a delightful romp, including the orchestra’s shout of “Yee-Haw!” in the midst of the “Hoedown.”
Gershwin’s An American in Paris, too, featured some excellent playing from the orchestra, especially the brass and the three saxophones brought in for the occasion. Percussion was exemplary in both the Copland and the Gershwin, as well, especially the xylophone solo in the Gershwin.
Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture is famous for its lush melodies, but it features some extraordinarily tricky string writing, too, so much so that it’s a common excerpt on symphony audition lists. The Fort Worth Symphony strings availed themselves beautifully, with crisp, clean playing in the technically difficult passages and beautiful sound in the more lyrical sections.
Midori’s performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto no doubt brought many of the audience members to the show. She began her career about 30 years ago as a child prodigy, and remains charming and gracious, greeting audience members in the lobby, signing autographs and posing for photo after photo.
Her playing is capable and the audience clearly loved her Friday, but she is no longer the phenom that she was in her teenaged height. Her left hand is not perfectly reliable: she dropped some notes and missed some shifts in the gnarlier passages of the first movement of the Tchaikovsky. Her bow control is still exemplary, however, and her playing is fierce, if not as emotionally gripping as it could be.
Still, she is always worth hearing.
As is the Fort Worth Symphony. With the ongoing negotiations between management and the musicians—you can read about it here—it's time for supporters and the city to rally behind this treasure.