Conductor Delyana Lazarova leads the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in dazzling Russian musical performances

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FORT WORTH — It’s not easy to refresh a warhorse as often staged as Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. But guest conductor Delyana Lazarova accomplished that feat Friday night with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Originally from Bulgaria now living in Switzerland, Lazarova studied violin at Indiana University and conducting in Zurich. Winner of several conducting competitions, she has not yet landed a musical direction, but she is accumulating notable credits as a guest conductor. The excellence of this pan-Russian concert foreshadowed a major talent that should go far, and soon.

The Tchaikovsky was meticulously proportioned and finely detailed in a way you don’t hear every day. I can’t think of when I’ve heard a performance more perfectly balanced between unstable (the unstable main theme of the first movement), desperate (climax of the same) and almost maniacal (the finale) emotions, but with the sweetest rhythm and sweetest in the second movement.

Every section of the FWSO performed fabulously. Searing blazes of brass in the outer two movements brought back memories of old-school Russian orchestras – St. Petersburg and Moscow – of happier days when they toured this side of the Atlantic. Horns summoned with trepidation. Again and again, I marveled at the precision and smoothness of the strings, from the finely focused pianissimos of the violins to the taut pinches of the third movement.

Elegant solo contributions came from Stanislav Chernyshev (clarinet), Jennifer Corning Lucio (oboe), Joshua Elmore (bassoon) and Gerald Wood (horn).

In a few years, I bet Lazarova will pick up a bit of a slower pace in the Tchaikovsky finale — thrilling as it is — and in the Glinka Ruslan and Ludmila Overture that opened the concert. But even at breakneck pace in the latter, the Fort Worth fiddlers dispatched the scurries with astonishing sharpness.

The FWSO’s concertmaster, Michael Shih, was the soloist in Alexander Glazunov’s Violin Concerto. Dating from 1905, it is an unusual piece, on the edge of the active repertoire. The program page listed three movements, but the first slow movements fit together perfectly.

Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Michael Shih joins the orchestra and guest conductor Delyana Lazarova as a soloist in Glazunov’s Violin Concerto at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas on October 28, 2022. (Robert W. Hart/Special Contributor)(Robert W. Hart / Special Contributor)

Shih is an accomplished violinist and in 21 years he has contributed a lot to the dramatic improvement of FWSO violins. He played very musically and delivered virtuoso passages with impressive aplomb. But his Stradivarius violin didn’t make a big sound, and a note here and there didn’t land in its center. Lazarova was a picky collaborator, again with a nice response from the orchestra. A roaring ovation was rewarded with a loving rendition of the famous ‘Meditation’ from Massenet’s opera Thais.

Having recently experienced rather clinical acoustics in The newly rebuilt David Geffen Hall in New York, I was happy to recall the excellent sound – clear and present, full-bodied and spacious – from Bass Performance Hall. But I wish they had retracted the soundproof curtains on the sides more, especially in the bays framing the proscenium. They significantly dry out the sound, especially for winds.

The FWSO really needs to rework its program book. Much of the type was absurdly microscopic. Between that and short attention spans these days, program notes were about twice as long as needed.

New York’s Geffen Hall revamp still not as good as Meyerson, Bass Hall in D-FW area

Details

Rehearsals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Bass Performance Hall, Fourth and Commerce Streets, Fort Worth. $26 to $99. 817-665-6000, fwsymphony.org.

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