A prelude to the upcoming Cliburn competition; some interesting new music, including a bawdy romp by the Fort Worth Opera; and some fine performances of familiar classics highlighted 2012 in local classical music. Here, the 10 best performances of the year.
1. Cliburn Concerts' Brentano String Quartet
(November, Bass Hall)
In a warm-up for the 2013 Cliburn Competition, Cliburn Concerts introduced the youthful Brentano String Quartet, which will play with semifinalists in the competition's chamber-music phase. A brilliant, highly varied program of music by Purcell, Bartok, Haydn and Brahms promised memorable moments in the next Cliburn.
2. Dallas Symphony Orchestra's performance of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony
(April, Meyerson Symphony Center)
Bruckner's massive symphony provided massive thrills in a performance masterfully led by Jaap van Zweden. Orchestra and conductor were in top form in an interpretation that deeply stirred the soul.
3. Fort Worth Opera Festival's 'Lysistrata'
(May, Bass Hall)
The Fort Worth Opera's gamble on new works (mixed with familiar classics) paid off handsomely with Mark Adamo's modern take on Aristophanes' ancient comedy. Bawdy, funny and smartly produced and sung, it drew many laughs from a Bohème-size audience on opening night.
4. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with guest conductor Larry Rachleff and violinist Karen Gomyo
(October, Bass Hall)
Superb performances of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and Dvorak's "Carnival" Overture demonstrated impressive skill, lyrical beauty and a keen sense of musical drama from orchestra, soloist and conductor. Very satisfying overall.
5. Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth presents Miró Quartet
(September, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth)
Coming in on short notice to substitute for another group, this quartet from the University of Texas at Austin gave a magnificent season-opener for the Chamber Music Society with brilliant performances of music by Mozart, Schubert and Dutilleux. It is clearly one of Texas' (and the nation's) premier ensembles.
6. Cliburn at the Modern presents music of Derek Bermel
(October, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth)
Bermel, a clarinetist as well as composer, is one of the most original voices of American music. He appeared in both roles in this program full of virtuosity; strange harmonic, rhythmic and melodic twists; much sly wit; and interesting detours off the main musical highway.
7. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with pianist Haochen Zhang
(May, Bass Hall)
Using a large interpretive palette, the 2009 Cliburn Competition co-winner gave a fresh-sounding performance of one of the most famous piano concertos, Rachmaninoff's Second. Miguel Harth-Bedoya's take on Respighi's Fountains of Rome was another plus.
8. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with violinist William Hagen
(April, Bass Hall)
Another famous concerto, Tchaikovsky's for the violin, was also given a fresh-seeming performance by a young virtuoso. Contrasting power and lyrical beauty, Hagen scored extra points by avoiding physical gyrations. A bonus was a fine performance of Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 by Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra.
9. Texas Camerata plays music of Bohemia
(January, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth)
This early music ensemble proved that attractive sounds from Bohemia aren't limited to those of Dvorak and Smetana. Delightful music from the likes of Jan Dismas Zelenka, Johann Gottlieb Janitsch and Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky made one long for a trip to central Europe.
10. PianoTexas presents music of Franz Schubert
(June, TCU's PepsiCo Recital Hall)
The annual PianoTexas series emphasized the music of the great lyrical genius Franz Schubert this time. One highlight was a presentation of his two piano trios by pianists Tamás Ungár and Harold Martina with violinist Arkady Fomin and cellist Jesús Castro-Balbi.