The second concert in the Fort Worth Symphony’s new season opener festival at Bass Hall started with a rarity: Haydn’s Overture to L’isola disabitata (the deserted island).
Haydn’s operas have fallen into obscurity these days, which is a shame if this dramatic overture is any indication. A prime example of the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) period in art, literature and music: a precursor to the Romantic era. Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya brought out all of both the Sturm and the Drang as he maximized all the sudden changes of mood.
The first half ended with Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, K. 219, called the “Turkish” for his pseudo-Turkish music in the last movement (It was all the rage at the time).
Norwegian violinist David Coucheron was a striking presence in a black shirt open at the neck and shock of blond hair. Still in his 20s, he turned in a mature-beyond-his-years performance. He produced a creamy but highly focused sound out of his 1725 Stradivarius.
His performance was clean, in tune and highly expressive. No repeated phrase got the same treatment.
But his most noticeable feature was his superb control of the bow. This allowed him to effortlessly play remarkably legato phrases. If you wondered if he would have the power for the big romantic concerti, the more raucous “Turkish” music in the last movement allowed him to show his dramatic side.
An interesting aside: Mozart was just about the same age as Coucheron when he wrote this concerto for his own performances.
The second half of the program was dedicated to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2: one that is not played as often as his others. It is a joyous and happy affair, which is in complete contrast to the composer’s state of mind.
Losing his hearing and despondent, he wrote his famous Heiligenstadt Testament letter, which showed him in a almost suicidal frame of mind
Harth-Bedoya played the symphony as Beethoven intended, without a hint of what was really going on with the composer. Too often, conductors will add a tragic overlay, but not so here. He conducted, from memory, with a light touch and without subduing the thrilling moments in the score.