Roy Harris. Samuel Barber. Philip Glass. Ferde Grofe. Duke Ellington.
Just the list of names told anyone in the know that the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra's Saturday night program was going to rate an A-plus for variety. Five composers, five sometimes drastically different styles. The striking thing was how well it worked.
The concert in Bass Hall was the second program in this year's American Music Festival, which, along with last year's edition, is aimed at showing that the music makers on this side of the Atlantic can have a real appeal even to supposedly hidebound classical audiences. So far the point has been proved.
The high points of Saturday night's concert were two.
One was Barber's Violin Concerto as played by an exceptional soloist, Augustin Hadelich, in collaboration with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and an orchestra in top form. Hadelich is getting to be a favorite of FWSO audiences, and the concerto demonstrated why. His tone is gorgeous, his playing impeccable, his musical instincts right on. He must have made more fans of what is probably the greatest American violin concerto.
Hadelich played an encore, sneaking in the one non-American piece of the evening, a Paganini caprice.
"I know it's not American," he told the audience, "but I like it very much." The audience seemed to agree.
The other peak moment was the performance of the third movement of Glass' Symphony No. 3. This was accompanied by a time-lapse video of scenes from Fort Worth. Not what Glass had in mind, but amazingly it worked beautifully, with spot-on coordination between sight and sound. The videographer was horn player Alton Adkins of the FWSO, which made a good case for Glass' music.
The rest of the program was consistently interesting. It included an outgoing performance of Harris' overture, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, with Andres Franco conducting, a picturesque performance of Grofe's On the Trail from his Grand Canyon Suite (with associate concertmaster Swang Lin getting the fun started with his violinistic imitation of a donkey's bray), and Ellington's jazzy evocation of Sunday morning in Harlem.
The festival concludes this evening with music of Charles Ives, William Grant Still, George Gershwin and Aaron Copland.