There was a larger than usual audience at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s concert in Bass Hall on Friday night. Tchaikovsky may have had something to do with that, but a bigger factor was probably the presence of Leonard Slatkin on the podium.
He is an internationally respected maestro, of course, but there’s special interest in him locally because in June 2017 he’ll conduct the orchestra in the finals of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and will serve as jury chairman as well.
There was no Cliburn connection Friday night, but the concert served as an impressive get-acquainted session for conductor and orchestra.
It also served to introduce to the audience a striking piece by Cindy McTee, a retired professor of music at the University of North Texas. She is also Slatkin’s wife (“She is my composer-in-residence,” he told the audience).
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McTee scored some points before a note was played by virtue of some clever wordplay in its title and movement designations. Called Double Play, it has two sections dubbed “The Unquestioned Answer” and “Tempus Fugit.” (“The Unquestioned Answer” is obviously a salute to Charles Ives and his composition The Unanswered Question).
Double Play is a substantial composition, not only in artistic weight but also in the forces required to play it. The three percussionists play an array of instruments that keeps them very busy — a mere list of all the instruments employed would make a weighty paragraph.
Despite McTee’s playful titles, Double Play seemed a bit melancholy in places. The music was attractive but leavened with energy — “Tempus Fugit” being a major source of excitement, of course.
Slatkin and the orchestra gave it an impressive performance (the horns were having a great night; there was plenty to admire elsewhere).
The remainder of the first half of the concert was devoted to two contrasting works by Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber. Three dance episodes from Bernstein’s On the Town were both jazzy in the outer movements and bluesy in the middle, and the second Essay for Orchestra by Barber was more lyrical and restrained. Conductor and orchestra gave both stylish performances.
A thrilling Symphony No. 5 by Tchaikovsky brought the concert to an exhilarating conclusion.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
Leonard Slatkin conducting
- 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
- Bass Hall
- 817-665-6000; fwsymphony.org.