The classical-music season is officially under way. As usual, the honor of playing the first notes belongs to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, which performed Friday night in Bass Performance Hall. Thanks to the sluggish economy, the program was all-Beethoven.
The economy comes into play because another segment of Fort Worth’s multiyear Mahler cycle was originally planned for the orchestra’s customary season-opening August festival. But it takes a lot of money to play Mahler, what with all the extra musicians required, so the FWSO turned to Beethoven instead. There were undoubtedly those pleased with the switch; attendance was heavy Friday night.
With Miguel Harth-Bedoya as the musical leader and pianist Adam Golka as the guest soloist, the concert went very well.
It opened with what is arguably Beethoven’s most dramatic short composition, the Egmont Overture. Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra gave it a taut, spine-tingling performance that thoroughly explored the work’s theatrical possibilities.
Golka, a former Fort Worth resident, joined the orchestra for a work of a very different kind, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major. His strong, mature performance well captured the shifting moods — dramatic, lyrical, playful — of this likable work.
Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony brought the evening to a powerful conclusion. Harth-Bedoya’s quick tempos in the two outer movements imparted plenty of energy to the performance and the funeral march was a moving complement. The scherzo seemed to me a bit shaky in ensemble, but the glorious final measures of the symphony more than compensated.
There was a slight thinning out of the audience at intermission. Have our attention spans atrophied, or were the leavers just spoiled by the new tradition of truncated programs on Fridays? (This one was full-length.)
After presenting Beethoven in his heroic mode on Friday night, the Fort Worth Symphony will turn on Saturday night to more lyrical and amiable music by the composer. James Ehnes will play the violin concerto, and Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra will present the Creatures of Prometheus Overture and the Pastoral Symphony. Sunday’s concert (in the evening, not afternoon) will return to drama with the Leonore Overture No. 3 and the fifth symphony. Golka will be back for the Piano Concerto No. 2.