The Classical Note: Yo-Yo Ma Impresses, But This Week, The Fort Worth Symphony Tackles The Bolder Challenge

Last week brought four concertos in three days—all of them performed as part of one-time-only concerts with the area’s two fulltime professional orchestras. The most impressive performance of the bunch came from cello superstar Yo-Yo Ma, appearing with the Dallas Symphony and music director Jaap van Zweden Saturday night at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Presenting the seldom-performed Concerto for Cello by Schumann, Ma displayed his usual combination of imagination and unfailing insight in a work characterized by cerebral whimsicality akin to the same composer’s Carnaval and Kinderszenen.

Two days earlier, on Thursday night at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, the Cliburn Foundation presented four past Cliburn Competition Gold Medalists (Ralph Votapek , André-Michel Schub, Alexander Kobrin, and Haochen Zhang) in an evening of concertos for multiple soloists with the Fort Worth Symphony and music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya. After a rocky start with Bach’s Concerto in A minor for Four Keyboards, Kobrin and Schub produced a memorablehigh point with their performance of Poulenc’s glittering Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra, treading the fine line between seriousness and the almost satirical humor in this unique masterpiece of twentieth-century music.

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Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, both of the region’s fulltime professional orchestras will get down to regular business this week—and, in the process, will demonstrate a clear contrast in programming style. Starting Thursday, Van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony will fall back on old favorites for a concert that would have been typical of a small-city orchestra in 1960 (Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun, Schumann’s Piano Concerto, and Berlioz’s Roman Carnival). Beginning Friday, Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony will take on the monumental challenge of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, pairing it with American composer Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral, and, hopefully, providing an opportunity for the composer to gain a larger audience and for the audience to stretch its ears.

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