FORT WORTH Nature was one of the few unifying themes of Friday night’s varied concert by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. It opened with Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, which celebrates the joys of the out-of-doors (not much dampened by a storm), and Debussy’s La Mer, which paints an impressionistic picture of winds and waves.
The guest maestro was Bulgarian-born Rossen Milanov, who’s active now in the United States and Spain among other places. He proved to be a subtle musician who seems to be at home in varied styles.
He opened the “Pastoral” with just about the softest sounds you’re going to hear in Bass Hall. They pushed the lower limits of audibility. Thereafter, especially in the first movement, he gave a beautifully molded performance that used a wide range of dynamics and nicely balanced tempos to produce a genial interpretation full of joyous sounds and gentle drama.
Excellent playing by the orchestra was a distinct asset.
Debussy’s La Mer was a distinctly different style of music-making, though super-soft passages and much subtlety overall were continuing assets. This was a performance that deserved the adjective “impressionistic”; you could almost feel the sea about you.
Between the two well-known pieces Milanov placed a composition from his native country, Pancho Vladigerov’s Improvisation and Toccata. The conductor gave a brief lecture (now customary in Bass Hall) praising the beauties of Bulgaria and the music of Vladigerov, who died in 1978.
The Improvisation and Toccata were a big and distinctly pleasant surprise. Vladigerov had a real talent for melody, and his orchestration seemed sophisticated and uniformly appealing. This is one set I’d love to hear again.
As usual, the program will be repeated today.
It’s worth hearing not only for music of musical giants Beethoven and Debussy, but also for this wonderful Bulgarian find.