Review: FWSO ‘Night at the Oscars’
Rodger Mallison

We are in “Oscar angst season” — that waiting period between the nominations and the awards. To distract us from our futile speculation, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is presenting a concert of music this weekend from Oscar-winning or -nominated films by terrific composers who occasionally jumped from the concert hall to the glitter of Hollywood.

They all sport equally distinguished credits on both sides of that divide — except for the composer of the medley of tunes from westerns, Various.

The guest conductor, Damon Gupton, is perfect for such a concert. He also straddles that divide. His resume lists both the top conducting and acting teachers around. He won the Third International Eduardo Mata Conducting Competition in Mexico City. As an actor, he appeared in the Broadway production of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning Clybourne Park. Currently, he is a star on the NBC series The Player with Wesley Snipes, and he recently starred in the series The Divide.

Both sets of skills were on display on Friday evening. As the host, he was charming, clever and debonair. As the conductor, he garnered the respect of the orchestra and, with a few exceptions, supplied right-on tempi throughout. His beat loosened in some of the slow sections, causing some ensemble problems, but mostly, he was incisive; precise, clear, confident and expressive.

The concert started with Erich Korngold, the stylistic grandfather of all the symphonic composers who followed. It was not a big step from his Overture to Captain Blood to John Williams’ music from E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Other selections by composers in this lineage are the very British William Walton (Henry V) and the very Italian music of Nina Rota (The Godfather). The beautiful (but too short) “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission by another Italian composer, Ennio Morricone, received a mesmerizing performance by FWSO principal oboist Jennifer Corning Lucio. Henry Mancini’s Theme from The Pink Panther was a model for the Big Band style of composers. Mancini’s Moon River (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) was a welcome interpolation.

About 10 minutes before the start of the concert, the musicians stood on stage as one of their number read a statement about the ongoing contract dispute with symphony management and two banners were displayed. If there was lingering tension, it did not show in the lively performance. But when Gupton acknowledged the musicians at the end of the concert, they received noticeably warm and enthusiastic applause.

Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
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