Twin Bill of Russian Works Delivers
FORT WORTH -- Rachmaninoff or Tchaikovsky?

There will always be those music-lovers who are partial to one of the Russian Romantics over the other. Yet I pose the question to figure out which of the selections by the Fort Worth Symphony on Friday evening at Bass Hall was the more satisfying. For the orchestra's performances of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with pianist Yevgeny Sudbin were truly superb.

There were even times in the concert that you forgot that both pieces are popular items in the standard repertoire -- perhaps too often played. During the Cliburn competition, for instance, the knuckle-busting pyrotechnics of the Rachmaninoff make a frequent appearance. Fort Worth Symphony Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya has made a specialty in recording and in performance of the Fifth Symphony and will conduct it again when the orchestra plays at New York's Carnegie Hall this month.

Yet on Friday night, both works avoided any hint of mustiness.

There has been much buzz surrounding 28-year-old Sudbin. The slender Russian's recent recordings have received highly favorable notices. Justly so. Friday night he brought a remarkably buoyant touch and sensitivity to Rachmaninoff's beloved variations.

Some pianists naturally bring a white-hot, visceral intensity to their music-making. And then there are others who prefer a cooler, "Apollonian" dignity. While Sudbin's pianism tended toward the latter, he conveyed excitement. Thunderous octaves gave way to beautifully textured voicing in the famous Variation XVIII. Every note and gesture in Sudbin's playing was musical.

The orchestra and Harth-Bedoya made pleasing chamber music with Sudbin, particularly in the last two-thirds of the work. Yet their opportunity to truly stand out was in the Tchaikovsky.

It was a loving interpretation, made even more outstanding by well-executed playing. Beginning with a warm clarinet solo by Ana Victoria Luperi, the symphony advanced without a break into the slow movement. Beautifully balanced strings and the horn solo by Mark Houghton made strong impressions.
Matthew Erikson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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