The attendance was down a bit but the music-making wasn't as the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra wound up its three-night American Music Festival on Sunday evening in Bass Hall.
The final program followed the pattern of the previous two: surefire music by George Gershwin and Aaron Copland contrasted with lesser-known works by William Grant Still and Charles Ives. The latter two were by no means put in the shade by their more-famous brethren.
That certainly applies to Still's Afro-American Symphony, a highly appealing composition that is full of melodically and harmonically attractive music skillfully handled and varied in mood. I especially liked its bright orchestration.
Aside from a jaunty third movement, the work tends to moderate tempos, even the finale, except for its final energetic outburst. The overall atmosphere seems a bit moody (despite a reference to Gershwin's carefree I've Got Rhythm).
Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra gave a bright performance that made one wonder why this work is not presented more often.
In great contrast was William Schuman's arrangement of Ives' Variations on America, originally composed for organ. Andres Franco led a brilliant performance of this sometimes-impudent work that takes the patriotic old song to places it never went before Ives. Franco, the FWSO's associate conductor, had significant exposure during the festival, with impressive results in each case.
Ives' variations keep the tune recognizable but play around with it in ways that might make listeners unfamiliar with the work think something has gone terribly wrong in the orchestra.
An early deadline kept me from hearing all of Jose Feghali and the orchestra's performance of Gershwin's Concerto in F, though the opening movement went very well. I also missed Copland's Three Dance Episodes from Rodeo and the accompanying video by Alton Adkins, whose work was quite impressive Saturday night.
There were some empty seats Sunday evening. Maybe a more traditional Sunday afternoon performance would have fared better.