Violinist brings down the house on FWSO festival’s last day

Posted 10:52pm on Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014

The audience was smaller Sunday afternoon than earlier in the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s annual August festival, but enthusiasm was high for three masterpieces by Brahms and Dvorak.

Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra opened the afternoon with Brahms’ Tragic Overture. This is a big work, and the orchestra, expanded above the norm, produced a big sound. The playing was cohesive, and Harth-Bedoya caught the sense of drama Brahms intended.

It’s amazing that he worked on this tragic piece at the same time he was creating the sunny Academic Festival Overture, which was played the previous night.

The remarkable violinist Augustin Hadelich came onstage for something of a rarity, Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. This is a gorgeous work, filled with the lovely music you’d expect from one of history’s greatest masters of melody.

The piece is basically a serene concerto except for a brisk finale that is sheer joy. Hadelich played it with a warm and accurate tone and a mastery of technique that was thrilling. The composition keeps the soloist busy playing virtually nonstop. There isn’t even a pause between the first and second movements.

Hadelich brought down the house, as he had Friday night, with an encore: Paganini’s Caprice No. 5, in a stupendous performance.

Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, which concluded the festival, had a thriller of a final movement, but otherwise seemed a bit of an anticlimax to me. There were positives — the interplay of the woodwinds, the overall string sound, noble trombones — but the performance didn’t seem inspired.

Maybe festival fatigue was setting in.

Before Sunday’s concert, Harth-Bedoya and symphony CEO Amy Adkins participated in a brief ceremony in honor of the longest-serving player in the orchestra. He’s principal percussionist Preston Thomas, with more than four decades of service.

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