When the composer Benjamin Britten met the tenor Peter Pears in 1937, he fell in love with both the man and the unusual quavery timbre of his voice, and their 40-year relationship would prove to be one of the most fruitful ones in music history. This weekend, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra plays a masterpiece, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings.
The suite is bookended by the French horn playing solo on natural harmonics (i.e. without fingering and therefore out of tune). In between, six English poems are set to vocal music, with Ben Jonson’s “Hymn to Diana” receiving a quick and witty treatment and Lord Tennyson’s “Blow, Bugle, Blow” enjoying a glorious, splashy setting. By contrast, William Blake’s “The Sick Rose” sounds properly malevolent, and the anonymous 15th-century religious poem “Lyke-Wake Dirge” is a masterful exercise in how to set a repetitive poem of many verses to blood-freezing music, with the horn entering like a blast out of hell. Tenor Paul Appleby and hornist Molly Norcross will be the soloists here; when Britten’s music first appeared, many tenors dismissed it as performable only by Pears, but in the last few decades, tenors have come up who make Britten a cornerstone of their repertoire.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra plays Fri-Sun at Bass Performance Hall, 555 Commerce St, FW. Tickets are $17-88. Call 817-665-6000.