They’re back! The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is a full-fledged performing organization once again. Any fear that its nearly four-month strike may have caused lasting damage disappeared when its members came on to the Bass Hall stage for a New Year’s Eve program on Saturday night.
They were greeted with a full house of cheering, shouting, whistling listeners who gave a standing ovation (of course) but a much more extended one than is customary around here.
With Miguel Harth-Bedoya at the helm, the orchestra clearly had the audience on its side. Orchestra and leader rewarded their listeners with a program that was sometimes irreverent but always a lot of fun.
It wouldn’t be a musical New Year’s without Vienna, and conductor and orchestra hewed to tradition with Strauss (Voices of Spring and Thunder and Lightning Polka) before moving on to material specifically American.
That included Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with local favorite Adam Golka at the piano. With fine backing from the winds, Golka gave a performance that was both subtle and true to the spirit of Gershwin. At the end, conductor and pianist engaged in a kind of Two Stooges routine in which each tried to out-encore the other (I’m not sure who won).
Even wilder was a bizarre Symphony No. 5 of Beethoven, which imagined this classical favorite as a sporting contest (conductor versus orchestra) complete with a running commentary (a la a TV sportscast) by the orchestra’s Buddy Bray and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.
Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra entered into the spirit of the thing, which drew a lot of laughter from the audience (and maybe some quiet objections from traditionalists). At least no one could accuse the participants of being stuffy.
More tomfoolery accented by silver and black balloons from the top of Bass Hall and Mardi Gras beads tossed during Deep in the Heart of Texas added to the festivities.