The shocking news of the Kholodenko family tragedy cast a pall over Friday night’s performance of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. The deaths of Nika and Michela Kholodenko, daughters of 2014 Cliburn gold medalist Vadym Kholodenko, had both professional and personal repercussions.
Professionally, the tragedy forced a drastic rearrangement of Friday’s concert. Personally, the events struck Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the conductor of the concert, with special force. He told the Bass Hall audience in brief preliminary remarks that his children had been playmates of the Kholodenko girls.
“When all words fail us, we have music,” Harth-Bedoya said. This echoed Kholodenko’s own remarks earlier Friday: “I would like to ask everyone who is going to the concerts this weekend at Bass Hall to think of the music. Wherever I go after this tragedy my heart will stay with the people here of Fort Worth and my daughters will rest in this soil.”
Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra opened their program with “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations. This was a substitute for Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1, which would obviously have been inappropriate given the circumstances.
“Nimrod” is an elegiac work often played on solemn occasions, especially in Great Britain. It was given a touching performance, with the audience respecting Harth-Bedoya’s request that there be no applause afterward.
Vadym Kholodenko had been scheduled to play Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, which would have been recorded with the orchestra for an album of all five Prokofiev concertos. Instead, pianist Alessio Bax stepped in on very short notice to play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. There reportedly was not enough time for the pianist, Harth-Bedoya and orchestra to rehearse together. If there was any one work that was ideal for such a situation, this was it. Everybody onstage knew Tchaikovsky’s First and knew it well.
Bax has some musical kinship with Kholodenko. Both have a lyrical gift and a knack for virtuosity that is impressive without excessive showmanship. Bax seemed to be pushing for a faster tempo early on, but overall this was a magnificent performance that got more than the usual applause.
The one item that remained from the original schedule, Brahms’ Symphony No. 3, seemed fitting in that it is the composer’s most gentle orchestral work. Harth-Bedoya and the orchestra gave it a performance full of lyrical beauty.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday