FORT WORTH -- Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade is one of those pieces that, when you think you have reached a certain level of sophistication, you are supposed to pretend that you don't like. But later you have to admit that it's pretty good -- well, better than pretty good.
Especially when it's given as masterly a presentation as the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra gave Friday night under the direction of a superb guest conductor, Josep Caballe-Domenech.
The Spanish maestro captained a three-dimensional performance that was right-on in its pacing, balance and attention to instrumental detail. He produced the sort of evening in which you come away humming the music to yourself, involuntarily.
The musicians certainly deserve a large share of the credit. Scheherazade is full of material for all sections of the orchestra, and the players acquitted themselves well. Concertmaster Michael Shih played the violin solos gorgeously (with atmospheric assistance by the unidentified harpist).
Others who caught attention included bassoonist Kevin Hall, horn player Mark Houghton, flutist Jan Crisanti, oboist Jennifer Corning Lucio and the cello section en masse.
There were other musical goodies. Cellist Alban Gerhardt gave a captivating performance of Schumann's Cello Concerto that was impressive in its rich tone, solid intonation and lyrical impulse. Again, Caballe-Domenech led a subtle performance that was full of gentle beauty.
The one piece of the evening that was not entirely convincing was Slapdance, by former symphony composer-in-residence John B. Hedges. This was a driving work full of nearly overpowering energy and abrasive sounds that rarely gave way to more contemplative passages. The orchestra and Caballe-Domenech gave it a virtuosic performance, but it's not a work that's immediately appealing.