We finally seem to be moving into an era in which Puccini-saturated audiences can actually look forward with pleasure to new and different operas. The most striking example of that in 2015 was Joby Talbot’s Everest, a powerful drama premiered by the Dallas Opera that joined such recent winners as Kevin Puts’ Silent Night, Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata and Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking in captivating local audiences.
Opera companies weren’t the only musical winners in the area in 2015. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra made its contributions; as usual, the Cliburn Foundation could take credit for spotlighting medalists, and smaller groups such as the Hall Ensemble, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth and PianoTexas produced musical highlights.
Here are 10 notable performances.
1. Dallas Opera’s ‘Everest’
Jan. 30, Winspear Opera House
Composer Joby Talbot, librettist Gene Scheer, a fine cast and a superb production team created a tense drama whose powerful music was an uncanny evocation of the struggle between human beings and the elements. This opera rivaled great legitimate theater in its impact.
2. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra: Vadym Kholodenko and Friends
Jan. 15, Kimbell Art Museum’s Piano Pavilion
The most recent Cliburn gold medalist teamed with six members of the orchestra for an evening of chamber music by Brahms and Poulenc. Kholodenko was magnificent as usual, but he’s a team player, and the blend was impressive throughout.
3. Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth presents the Dicterow-deMaine-Biegel Piano Trio
Jan. 3, Kimbell Art Museum’s Piano Pavilion
This was unusual in being the very first performance by a newly formed but highly professional group of musicians: violinist Glenn Dicterow, cellist Robert deMaine and pianist Jeffrey Biegel. They were joined by violinist Gary Levinson and violist Karen Dreyfus in a program of highly appealing music by Suk, Brahms and Dohnányi.
4. PianoTexas presents Arie Vardi
June 19, TCU’s PepsiCo Recital Hall
With one exception, Vardi played a lecture/recital program that consisted of nothing but mazurkas. He demonstrated two things: There’s plenty of variety in this one form, and he’s a highly entertaining teacher. His piano students are a lucky group.
5. Fort Worth Opera’s ‘Hamlet’
May 2, Bass Hall
Ambroise Thomas’ take on Shakespeare was updated to the Stalinist era, and there was considerable fiddling around with the plot (for one thing, there was a glass-enclosed corpse in the Bass Hall lobby). But the gimmicks were no worse than what Thomas had already done to Shakespeare, and the music was nicely done by the cast and conductor Joe Illick and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. So this was a pleasant break with tradition.
6. Hall Ensemble at Avoca Coffee
March 1, Avoca Coffee
The Hall Ensemble mixes the new with the old and harks back to the good old days when music-making was often a close-in affair. Which makes this performance in a coffee house completely appropriate. The highlight of the concert was Brahms’ fabulous Clarinet Quintet in B minor, with clarinetist Ana Victoria Luperi joining violinists Jennifer Chang and Sergey Tsoy, violist Aleksandra Holowka, and cellist Karen Hall in a deeply moving performance.
7. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with pianist Vadym Kholodenko
Oct. 23, Bass Hall
The Cliburn gold medalist continued his close association with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra by giving muscular and sometimes playful performances of Prokofiev’s first and fourth piano concertos. A performance of Schoenberg’s rarely played orchestration of Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor was a bonus.
8. Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth presents pianist Jon Nakamatsu and colleagues
Nov. 14, Kimbell Art Museum’s Piano Pavilion
Another Cliburn gold medalist was the busiest participant in this concert, with Nakamatsu joining violinist Gary Levinson, violist Michael Klotz, cellist Carter Brey and bassist Nicolas Tsolainos in a program highlighted by Schubert’s Trout Quintet.
9. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with pianist Barry Douglas
May 15, Bass Hall
As many times as it’s been played around here, you’d think Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 would have long since worn out its welcome. But Douglas’ sounds, ranging from ethereal to grand, and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s familiarity with the piece worked their old magic. The audience loved it. Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body was a nice plus.
10. Hall Ensemble’s Oktoberfest
Oct. 27, atrium of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas
Classical music can be serious but also fun. That seems to be one of the mottos of the Hall Ensemble, which had the audience singing along with gusto, not only in Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit, but in drinking songs by Beethoven and Schubert. Light pieces by Mozart, Weber and Johann Strauss II, and a serious quartet by Beethoven kept the mood from getting out of hand.
2015 A&E year in review
Dec. 25: Movies, pop music and concerts
Dec. 26: Visual art
Sunday: Dance and books
Monday: Classical music and opera