Yo Yo Ma makes Fort Worth Symphony’s gala grand

Posted 8:33am on Friday, Apr. 04, 2014

Thursday night’s gala concert by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra could well have been titled “Dvorak’s Greatest Hits.”

There was the Carnival Overture, easily the composer’s most popular work in the form.

There was the New World Symphony (or at least part of it) — probably Dvorak’s most well known symphonic composition.

And there was Yo-Yo Ma, playing (of course) the cello concerto, which is simply the greatest work by anybody in that form.

Bass Hall was packed for the occasion, and the audience was treated to a grand concert in which Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra, perhaps inspired by a fabulous musician onstage with them, gave musical pleasure to match that of their guest soloist.

The Carnival Overture has far outstripped Dvorak’s other overtures with the musical public. It is full of captivating melodies and high spirits, with a gentle interlude bringing a lovely calm to the work. Harth-Bedoya took the opening at a very brisk pace (the work is called Carnival for a reason), and the spirits were generally high throughout. The orchestra produced appealing sounds, with the interplay of English horn and flute (Jane Owen and Jan Crisanti, I believe) one of several high points.

To keep the concert reasonably short (there were social festivities afterward), Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra played only the final movement of the New World Symphony. Well, something’s better than nothing, and this movement has more than its share of thrills. Harth-Bedoya’s pacing of the movement — as of the Carnival before it — was subtle and convincing, and there was fine work among soloists in the orchestra (clarinetist Ana Victoria Luperi and horn principal Mark Houghton come to mind).

This whetted the appetite for the whole work. Those who want to hear it all should mark Aug. 22 on their calendar. The New World is one of the compositions on the Fort Worth Symphony’s summer Dvorak-Brahms festival.

Yo-Yo Ma was awesome. His playing of the cello concerto was precise, by turns noble and lyrical, with a lovely tone throughout. There were subtleties and noble sounds, too, from conductor and orchestra. The horns were in great shape, and the clarinet was especially appealing in the final movement.

Ma is clearly a crowd favorite. He was greeted with shouts of approval when he first walked onstage and thunderous applause afterward. Too bad a peculiar squeaking sound from somewhere in the hall intruded in the slow movement.

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