Fort Worth The Hall Ensemble was on a bit of a playful streak with its concert Tuesday night at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT).
First, the title of its program, Deck the Halls, was a pun on the ensemble’s name. Then there was the program-opener, the overture to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. This was downright bizarre, because it was an arrangement for one cello and one bassoon. That’s all.
Clearly, it was a joke. The bassoonist, Kevin Hall, turned the performance into a tongue-in-cheek threat, telling his audience that if the current Fort Worth Symphony crisis wasn’t solved, they’d have to listen to an entire Nutcracker backed only by cello and bassoon.
(Hall is the Fort Worth Symphony’s principal bassoonist; his wife, Karen, Tuesday night’s Nutcracker cellist, is also a member of the orchestra.)
With the tomfoolery out of the way, the Hall Ensemble presented a Christmas program that was full of lovely sounds and chipper moods. As usual with the ensemble, there was plenty of variety, with even Mozart represented by sounds he never imagined.
This is because the ensemble depends heavily on arrangements to bring its unusual combination of instruments into play. In addition to the two Halls, Tuesday night’s group included violist Aleksandra Holowka and two guests: oboist Jennifer Corning Lucio and violinist Izumi Lund. All are members of the FWSO.
In a generally pleasing program, one highlight for me was Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Winter’s Willow, whose loveliness was beautifully brought out in the arrangement for oboe, violin, viola and cello.
Another winner was an arrangement of Mozart’s String Quintet, K. 174, which employed all of Tuesday night’s musicians. This was high-spirited music-making with an occasional reflective turn.
The evening’s other offerings were Pastorale per la Notte di Natale, by Johann David Heinichen; Fantasie Joyeuse (a medley of Christmas tunes); Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, Opus 6, No. 8; and the Sandman and Evening Prayer, from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.
Hall Ensemble President David Robinson, who has an attractive baritone voice, led the audience in Silent Night to close the program.