To call the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s three-year Mahler cycle a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear the maestro’s remarkable symphonic output isn’t far off the mark. The length and size of his nine completed symphonies make them not only expensive to trot out but difficult to schedule.
FWSO conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya began the cycle’s final installment last week at Bass Performance Hall with Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, scored for expanded strings, woodwinds in four, eight French horns, six trumpets, four trombones, a tuba, two harps, and a battery of percussion instruments on stage and off, including a “large hammer” – a sledge hammer, really – swung into a box that gives a resounding thunk when struck. The stage shell was extended to its full depth to make room for the extra forces, and it still looked crowded up there.
The first movement is a relentless splash of tonal color: layers upon layers of surging sound that all but take the roof off. The second movement relents, offering a biting parody of a country dance. It’s as if the village youngsters are being laughed at instead of encouraged for their awkward attempts at trying to mimic grownups’ dance moves. Harth-Bedoya’s interpretation was as imagistic as possible.