It was quite a coup for the Van Cliburn Piano Competition to engage one of America’s greatest conductors, Leonard Slatkin, to conduct the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra for its final round three years ago. The maestro will return next year to chair the Cliburn jury and conduct again, but he’ll be in town this weekend to lead the orchestra’s concerts.
The program will consist mostly of American items. Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town features music the composer wrote for the extensive ballet interludes for his Broadway show about sailors on leave in New York City. Barber’s monumental Second Essay for Orchestra is juxtaposed with the more mysterious, percussion-heavy Double Play by esteemed composer Cindy McTee, which uses both tonal and atonal techniques at the same time. (McTee, who married Slatkin in 2011, will be in attendance.) The program ends with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, whose upbeat ending many critics — the composer included — felt jarred with the tragic tone of the whole piece. Nevertheless, it was one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular works, being played repeatedly during the 1941 siege of Leningrad to inspire the people. Having Slatkin return to perform this program with our local musicians is a rare privilege.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra plays Fri-Sun at Bass Performance Hall, 555 Commerce St, FW. Tickets are $20-82. Call 817-665-6000.