As always, the 2013 Cliburn Competition and the Cliburn Foundation’s related concert series provided plenty of musical pleasure throughout the year. But other active groups, big and small, made it a fine year for listening.
Following are events that impressed critics Olin Chism, Punch Shaw and Gregory Sullivan Isaacs. The order is chronological throughout the year; it does not represent a ranking of the programs.
Radu Lupu’s Cliburn Concerts recital
Radu Lupu, winner of the second Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1966, is considered one of today’s premier pianists, and he affirmed that assessment with a highly original performance of lyrical works by Schubert, Franck and Debussy.
He used understatement throughout, but his playing was so beautifully judged artistically that it never seemed eccentric.
Violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Sam Haywood
Haywood, who is British, wasn’t listed in the printed program as an “accompanist,” for good reason: His skill and sure musical instincts made him a full partner with Bell in a group of pieces that spotlight the piano about as much as the violin.
This was an impressive collaboration that gave masterpieces by Schubert, Strauss and Prokofiev their due.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with pianist Daniil Trifonov
Trifonov’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 was unusual in its strongly lyrical impulse — gentle passages made their impression as much as stormy ones.
Strong support by Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra and a fine performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 made this a special evening.
Schola Cantorum of Texas’ season finale
This excellent choral group, under the direction of Jerry McCoy, gave a gentle, haunting program highlighted by Fauré’s Requiem and a lovely musical tribute to the late Van Cliburn.
Fort Worth Opera Festival’s ‘La Bohème’
Fort Worth Opera Festival’s ‘Glory Denied’
Although composer Tom Cipullo’s music tends not to linger in the mind, it’s a powerful reinforcer of this taut drama of the tribulations of an American prisoner-of-war and his family.
A cast of top-notch actors and a spare set and effective direction created a sense of isolation and anguish.
Vadym Kholodenko’s semifinal recital at the Cliburn competition
Kholodenko, who not only won the 2013 Cliburn Competition’s gold medal but the awards for chamber music and the performance of a new work as well, devoted his semifinals recital almost totally to Liszt’s awesome Transcendental Études.
He emphasized the often neglected beauty in the pieces while easily conquering their technical difficulties, winning a thunderous reception at the conclusion — and the judges’ approval as well.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with pianist Alessandro Deljavan
In a performance of Rachmaninoff’s second concerto that emphasized subtlety and emotion rather than dazzling note-building, one of the Cliburn competition’s most popular non-finalists (from both 2009 and 2013) wowed an audience at the FWSO’s Russian Festival.
His trademark facial expressions amused some, charmed others and irritated few.
Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth presents Miró Quartet
The Texas-based Miró Quartet gave brilliant performances of masterpieces by Schubert, Ravel, Beethoven and Barber to open the Chamber Music Society’s season for the second year in a row.
It would be hard to devise another program that equaled the combination of high artistic caliber and sheer musical pleasure of this one.
Cliburn at the Bass presents soprano Deborah Voigt
With charm and subtlety as well as glorious high notes, Voigt proved a master of communicating to the audience the texts of widely varied songs, as though they were little mini-operas.
A fine pianist, Brian Zeger was a marvelous collaborator.