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Fort Worth Symphony shines in season finale

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Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

2 p.m. today

Bass Hall

$10-$79

817-665-6000; www.fwsymphony.org.


Posted 6:54am on Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2013

This weekend ends the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s 100th-anniversary season, but there was nothing like Auld Lang Syne in Bass Hall on Friday night. Instead the orchestra presented a high-energy program that was more like a celebration than a farewell.

There were two works on the program: Peru Negro by Jimmy López (a world premiere) and Carl Orff’s — you guessed it — Carmina Burana.

López is from Peru, as is the orchestra’s music director, Miguel Harth-Bedoya. They’ve known each other a long time, and Harth-Bedoya commissioned the new work as part of the centennial observance.

López sneaked in a salute to the conductor in the composition’s first four notes, played by the principal horn: E, B-natural, B-flat and G. That forms the conductor’s initials. That takes a little bit of interpreting: Think of E as mi, as in “do re mi,” and B-natural as H, German style. Then you get M.H.B.G. for Miguel Harth-Bedoya Gonzales (though the conductor doesn’t use that last part around here).

Peru Negro is a salute to the black musical heritage of Peru. It’s a very outgoing composition, boundless in energy, with much brass and percussion, fierce rhythms and a smashing ending. López works in some nice melodic bits in the strings and elsewhere, but you wouldn’t describe it as a lyrical work.

One asset is the orchestration. It employs a large orchestra, with some exotic instruments (cajons, cowbells, ratchet, jawbone, thunder sheet) joining more conventional music-producers. It all makes for a bright, atmospheric sound.

Carmina Burana is another energetic work, employing a large orchestra, three vocal soloists and a huge chorus — on Friday night, a gathering of the Arlington Master Chorale, the Fort Worth Choral Society, the Southwestern Seminary Master Chorale, the Texas Boys Choir and the Texas Wesleyan Chorale.

The work can pall a little if heard too frequently, but it remains popular with the musical public. You have to admit that it’s very original. Most large choral works are religious, but this one is decidedly carnal, exuding an “eat, drink and make love, for tomorrow the wheel of fate will grind you to dust” sensibility.

Its pulsing rhythms bring Stravinsky to mind, and the power of a large chorus singing fortissimo can be intimidating.

Harth-Bedoya, and undoubtedly five choral directors, did an impressive job of seeing to it that all five groups managed to produce a unified sound. Of the three soloists, the most impressive was baritone Philip Cutlip, who has an attractive lyric voice and the ability to shade his sound impressively, although soprano Cyndia Sieden and countertenor Michael Maniaci produced decent sounds.

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