Didgeridoo’s earthy sounds fill Bass Hall

Posted 7:08am on Saturday, Mar. 22, 2014

The twain met in Bass Hall on Friday night.

On one hand, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra played music of Beethoven and Wagner. Nothing much remarkable about that, though Wagner is pretty rare around here. On the other hand, the orchestra played Australian music incorporating the aboriginal didgeridoo. Now that’s even rarer than Wagner, probably even a first for Bass Hall.

Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya has made a policy of bringing new music to the attention of his audiences. That adds more than a little spice and no doubt accounts for the performance of Earth Cry by Peter Sculthorpe, Friday night’s guest from the land of Oz.

I thought Earth Cry was a winner. It begins with earthy sounds from the didgeridoo alone, then swells up as the conventional orchestra enters, and finally recedes as the didgeridoo brings the piece to an end.

This grand arch was an effective piece of musical drama, especially with the overall mood (spooky and a bit surreal) that gave one a bit of a shiver. Some repetitiveness emphasized the mood. Dennis Klophaus, the didgeridooist, wasn’t credited in the evening’s leaflets. A shame, since his performance certainly added to the atmosphere.

The audience had to make do with a couple of leaflets giving the barest information about the program. Harth-Bedoya explained to the crowd that, due to some unspecified snafu, the usual printed programs had “vanished.” Maybe they’ll reappear for the weekend’s repetitions.

A magnificent performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 introduced pianist Steven Osborne to the audience. He has an eloquent lyrical gift, most beautifully heard in the lovely slow movement, and certainly lacks nothing in his ability to produce drama. A powerful first-movement cadenza was a high point, as was the playful finale.

Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra gave strong support, with some notable playing in the woodwinds, especially the clarinet, adding to the evening’s musical pleasures.

The Wagner was orchestral music from Die Gotterdammerung, the final opera of the epic Ring cycle. Conductor and orchestra introduced this by playing brief snippets of what was to come, including some of Wagner’s motifs.

What I heard before deadline time was pretty grand, including noble brass sounds and lovely contributions from the strings.

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