Although it is almost literally the stormiest of Beethoven’s symphonies (he depicted a thunderstorm in the fourth movement), the Pastoral Symphony is an amiable work and it made a fitting conclusion to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s program of lyrical Beethoven on Saturday evening.
Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra were in fine form, with the wind instruments having some especially pleasing turns in the spotlight. It was a nicely paced 40 minutes or so of lovely sound painting.
Not to take away from the Pastoral, but the real highlight of the evening was Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, which was given a gorgeous performance by violinist James Ehnes and the orchestra. Ehnes’ playing is clean, elegant and sweet-toned, and a very welcome enhancement is that he avoids histrionics, instead employing just the motions necessary.
The concert’s appetizer was the overture to The Creatures of Prometheus, not in the league, perhaps, of Friday night’s Egmont but still a nice opportunity to hear a lesser-known work.
Fort Worth’s opening festival hasn’t been free of distractions. Besides the usual shuffling of unbolted chairs and ringing of cellphones, on Friday a light fixture popped loudly, and on Saturday a baby in the front row began making loud baby noises during the violin concerto. It wasn’t clear whether this expressed approval or disapproval.
Harth-Bedoya also lost his grip on his baton during the first movement of the Pastoral, sending the stick arcing through the air into the orchestra nearby. It was recovered during the pause between movements and no harm was done. Harth-Bedoya was luckier than conductor Victor Alessandro, who once stabbed himself in the left hand, the baton going clear through to the other side. He was credited with a penetrating interpretation.
The festival will conclude in Bass Performance Hall on Sunday evening.