Fort Worth Symphony begins its closing weekend on a beautiful note

Sarah Chang
Fort Worth Star Telegram

By Chris Shull

It's the last-chance weekend for the FWSO this weekend, and it's a triumphant conclusion.

FORT WORTH -- You've got just two more chances to hear the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra this weekend. Then its classical season closes, and we grab our blankets and coolers and head to Concerts in the Garden.
The concert Friday conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya at Bass Hall featured two symphonic gems: the Violin Concerto by Brahms with dynamic Sarah Chang as soloist, followed by the orchestra showpiece Pictures at an Exhibition. Concerts Saturday and Sunday will add the Toccata for Orchestra by contemporary Peruvian Gonzalo Garrido-Lecca.

Chang and Harth-Bedoya combined for a spacious, sure-footed Brahms. In the opening movement, the violin's icy brilliance relaxed into a comfortable purr. A solo cadenza featured perfect fluttering trills and melodies etched in silver. She flourished her bow like a magic wand and often danced in place when phrases ended.

Chang played the adagio's folksy hymn with a lovely, spun-silk sound. The Hungarian dance finale was unhurried to let phrases breathe and rhythms rebound. Chang's virtuoso playing peaked in steely grandeur.

And talk about a triumphant conclusion to a concert and a season. Mussorgsky's Pictures, originally a piano piece but famously orchestrated by Ravel, features every section of the orchestra at one time or another, often in scintillating tonal combinations. The piece musically illustrates several pictures at an art show: quivering low strings and creepy woodwinds to create a prowling Gnome; effervescent woodwinds and plucked strings to make a happily careening Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks; and heavy, brassy chords recalling ominous Catacombs. Strings cast an eerie pall before broadening into sunlight and the chugging clamor of Baba-Yaga.

A feature of Pictures at an Exhibition is its extended musical palette. We hear a tangy alto saxophone (played by Joe Eckert) cast a spell around a misty Old Castle. Euphonium player (and second trombonist) John Michael Hayes evoked a lumbering, lowing Cattle, and piccolo trumpet player Steve Weger hectored the grave, somber strings in Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle.

The Great Gate of Kiev ended the piece with nobility, strings humming honey-colored below triumphant brass, the whole building into bell-tolling celebration.