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Kholodenko, FWSO revel in Beethoven at festival

Posted 11:06am on Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

In a festival of high points, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra reached the pinnacle Sunday afternoon in Bass Hall. Pianist Vadym Kholodenko, conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra gave a magnificent performance of one of music’s most remarkable masterpieces, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.

Over the past three years, Kholodenko, the winner of the most recent Cliburn Piano Competition, has submitted plenty of evidence that he is among the finest of the Cliburn gold medalists. Sunday’s performance was one more confirmation of that judgment.

Kholodenko is an artist of subtlety, strength and unfailing good taste. It is one point in his favor that he avoids the showboating so often seen among competition pianists. He serves the composer, not the seekers of pianistic thunder and lightning.

His approach seemed just right for Beethoven’s concerto, which combines lyrical beauty, soft-spoken drama and challenges in balancing the roles of the soloist and his collaborators.

Credit for Sunday’s artistic victory goes not only to Kholodenko, but also to Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra, who were in top form. Conductor and soloist were always in sync, and the famous dialogue of piano and strings that constitutes Beethoven’s second movement was flawlessly executed.

One major plus for this Classical Masters Festival has been the inclusion of “pre-concert performances” as one-hour preludes to the regular programs. Sunday’s was devoted to Haydn’s so-called Rider Quartet, played by violinists Michael Shih and Adriana DeCosta, violist Laura Bruton, and cellist Allan Steele. This was a half-hour of sheer joy. You’d have to be dead to not enjoy such episodes as the lovely slow movement and catchy finale.

Another joyful span was provided by Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra’s lively account of Haydn’s overture to his opera L infedelt à delusa.

Mozart was not neglected. His Symphony No. 25 in G minor provided some of the afternoon’s musical drama, and offered the audience the chance to hear the parts Miloš Forman left out in his film Amadeus.

There was one sour note Sunday afternoon. As Kholodenko was playing a soft encore to bring the concert to a close, there was a loud crash in the hall, embellished by a lengthy series of cellphone rings. Kholodenko seemed utterly unfazed.

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