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Fort Worth’s Mahler celebrates a rebirth


by Olin Chism 25 Aug 2008

The resurrection that Mahler wrote about in his Symphony No. 2 involved eternal life in celestial realms, but on Sunday night in Fort Worth it was possible to see in the work a less lofty, though important, significance: the rebirth of an orchestra. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra had done justice to a strenuous marathon […]

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The resurrection that Mahler wrote about in his Symphony No. 2 involved eternal life in celestial realms, but on Sunday night in Fort Worth it was possible to see in the work a less lofty, though important, significance: the rebirth of an orchestra. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra had done justice to a strenuous marathon of difficult music. This isn’t the Fort Worth Symphony of old.

With Miguel Harth-Bedoya at the helm, the orchestra had opened a new season with Round 2 of a three-year project: the complete symphonies of Mahler. The Symphony No. 6 began the 2008 festival on Friday night, the Symphony No. 7 followed on Saturday and the “Resurrection” brought it to a close on Sunday.

Add the great length of each work to the unusual technical demands and it becomes obvious that fatigue is a potential problem. Maybe it became a real, if minor, problem on Sunday. There was a significant delay in starting the program (apparently Harth-Bedoya wasn’t feeing well) and the performance didn’t seem quite as polished as the previous ones, though it was still impressive. Once onstage, the conductor showed no sign of distress.

Surveying the festival as a whole, I found the “Resurrection” Symphony to be the most engrossing of the three. The Symphony No. 6 was moving at times, but the Seventh Symphony, though interesting in some of its eccentricities, never really moved me. Even here, though, the shadowy scherzo and the second night-music earned more than respect.

What was consistent was the superb sound of the orchestra and its sense of unity. There must have been an unusual amount of rehearsal time spent on these three massive works. This certainly wasn’t a beginning-of-season shakedown. The orchestra clearly had the audience on its side. When Harth-Bedoya recognized individual soloists or sections at the end of each performance, the audience cheered them as if they were sports stars who had just won an important game.

The Fort Worth Symphony will open its regular season on Sept. 19. The conclusion of the Mahler festival will come at the end of next summer, with the Symphonies Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

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