Arts & Culture

Critic: Guitarist plays ‘brilliantly’ with symphony

There’s plenty of listenable music on this weekend’s schedule of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, but one work seemed special in Friday night’s concert.

This was Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez — an excellent piece in itself, but especially when played as brilliantly as guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas did it in his inaugural appearance in Bass Hall.

This basically gentle work has some virtuoso turns, but so skilled is Sáinz Villegas that the whole thing seemed easy, almost casual in his hands.

The opening movement was sparkling, fluid and about as lovely in the tone Sáinz Villegas produced as you’re likely to hear from any guitarist (he brought to mind the exceptional artistry of Carlos Barbosa-Lima).

The slow movement was subtle and haunting, especially in the passages that paired the English horn (Rogene Russell, I assume) with the guitar. The slow-movement cadenza was an eloquent interlude, and the third movement was a jaunty conclusion.

The orchestra and conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya were impressive colleagues.

Sáinz Villegas brought down the house with an encore that seemed almost a catalogue of guitar technique. He even proved that the guitar can be an impressive percussion instrument.

The concert opened with a sparkling performance of Johann Strauss Jr.’s overture to Die Fledermaus. If there’s another overture with as many fine tunes as this I don’t know it. It would be hard to wear this one out.

The after-intermission portion of the concert was devoted to nine selections from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. This gave the whole orchestra a good workout (Prokofiev seems to have been especially fond of the tuba; here and in other of his works he keeps the instrument busy).

Among others, there were fine solo turns by the flute (Jan Crisanti), cello (Allan Steele), violin (Michael Shih), viola (David Hermann, I assume) and the whole horn section.

Why don’t symphony orchestras take a cue from the opera world and project section titles in works that tell a story, like Romeo and Juliet. Or The Rite of Spring — now that would be a ground-breaker.

As usual, Friday’s program will be repeated again today.