Violinist Joshua Bell performs for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Gala concert in February at Bass Hall. Rachel Parker Special to the Star-Telegram
Violinist Joshua Bell performs for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Gala concert in February at Bass Hall. Rachel Parker Special to the Star-Telegram

Performing Arts

Despite strike, FWSO hit highest classical-music notes of 2016

By Olin Chism

Special to the Star-Telegram

December 28, 2016 06:12 PM

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra musicians’ strike made a significant dent in the city’s classical-music schedule for 2016, but there was plenty of fine music to be heard throughout the year, including from the FWSO itself.

Here are some performances that made a strong impression during the year.

1. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with violinist Joshua Bell

February, Bass Hall

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This performance, the FWSO Gala concert, gets an undisputed place at the top of the list. Bell was brilliant, and the orchestra with Miguel Harth-Bedoya at the helm made some glorious sounds of its own in a program of Verdi, Bruch, Massenet and Richard Strauss. At the beginning, the silent orchestra stood as a spokesman read a list of grievances — a signal that trouble lay ahead.

2. PianoTexas recital by Vadym Kholodenko

June, PepsiCo Recital Hall at TCU

Deeply moving performances of music by Schumann and Liszt were given particular force by the knowledge that this was Kholodenko’s first public appearance in the city since the death of his two daughters earlier in the year.

3. Cliburn at the Kimbell recital by Behzod Abduraimov

November, Kimbell Art Museum’s Piano Pavilion

This young man (he’s 26) combined exceptional virtuosity and the soul of a true poet in a heavyweight program that already placed him among the elite of the piano.

4. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with conductor Leonard Slatkin

March, Bass Hall

This served as a kind of warmup to the next Cliburn Competition, which will feature Slatkin as conductor and jury chairman. A thrilling Symphony No. 5 by Tchaikovsky capped a performance that included music by Americans Barber, Bernstein and Cindy McTee (Slatkin’s wife).

5. Dallas Opera’s ‘Eugene Onegin’

October, Winspear Opera House

A fine cast, excellent choral and orchestral performances, and quasi-surrealistic sets gave force to Pushkin and Tchaikovsky’s tale of love rejected and rejection regretted.

6. Fort Worth Opera’s ‘JFK’

April, Bass Hall

Composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek made an engrossing if sometimes puzzling tragedy out of President John F. Kennedy’s last night on earth. The cast and striking sets enhanced music that is strongly atmospheric if not always melodically compelling.

7. Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth with pianist Alessandro Deljavan and partners

May, Kimbell Art Museum’s Piano Pavilion

Two-time Cliburn semifinalist Deljavan, joined by pianist Baya Kakouberi, violinist Gary Levinson and cellist Andrés Díaz, charmed with a well-played program highlighted by a rare Schubert piece for piano, four hands.

8. Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth with clarinetist Franklin Cohen and partners

September, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

A master of his instrument, Cohen gave impressively eloquent performances of music by Mozart, Bruch and Hindemith. Violinist Gary Levinson, violinist Lydia Umlauf, violist Richard Young and cellist Bion Tsang were able partners.

9. Cliburn at the Bass recital by pianist Yefim Bronfman

January, Bass Hall

Bronfman proved his mastery with a compelling recital devoted exclusively to the music of Prokofiev. He found the composer to be a man of many moods.

10. Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition semifinal round, Thomas Yu

June, Van Cliburn Recital Hall

Yu, a periodontist, is the only nonprofessional musician on this list. Yet his profound performance of Beethoven’s great Sonata No. 32 surely was a factor when the jury declared him the winner of the 2016 Cliburn Amateur.

2016 A&E year in review

Dec. 23: Movies and music

Sunday: Visual art, books

Monday: Television

Tuesday: Dance

Thursday: Theater

Friday: Restaurants

Saturday: Classical music