FWSO `Viva Italia!`

By Olin Chism
January 29, 2016

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s concerts this weekend are in the hands of two young guest artists: Brazilian-German conductor Marcelo Lehninger and American violinist Caroline Goulding. Both created sparks with a program titled “Viva Italia.”

Goulding’s virtuoso vehicle was Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1, which is full of musical derring-do.

Paganini was kind of a Liszt of the violin, although he was two up on Liszt with a real gift for melody and a compositional originality that didn’t lean on other composers’ work.

Goulding made an amazing impression with both her technical skill and her lyrical gift. The only complaint might be that her first-movement cadenza overstayed its welcome. It reminded me of an old anecdote about Handel, which may be true. It seems that the composer was conducting a performance in which the violin soloist went on at great length and to far-afield keys in his cadenza. When he finally got back to home territory, Handel said, loud enough for the audience to hear, “Welcome home, Mr. Dubourg.”

There was one interposition Friday night between the second and third movements of the Paganini: an intermezzo for solo cellphone, I believe it was.

Lehninger and Goulding paused briefly to let the sound die away.

Lehninger, a protegé of the late Kurt Masur, began the evening in Bass Hall with a jaunty performance of the overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, which is full of Rossini’s trademark musical gestures. Overall, the performance was beautifully done, with an impressive range of dynamics, including some pianissimos barely on the edge of audible and a wide range of interpretive techniques.

Mendelssohn was German, not Italian, but since his Symphony No. 4 was inspired by Italy, it was appropriate enough for the evening’s theme. It was a joyous performance whose high point for me was a beautifully brought off finale that was both exciting and moving.

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