Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO) is an American symphony orchestra based in Fort Worth, Texas. The orchestra is resident at the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall. In addition to its symphonic and pops concert series, the FWSO also collaborates with the Fort Worth Opera, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Southwestern Seminary Master Chorale. and the Children’s Education Program of Bass Performance Hall. The FWSO also presents the Concerts In The Garden summer music festival at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
The orchestra gave its first public performance in 1912, and disbanded in 1917 during World War I. In 1925, Brooks Morris re-established the FWSO, and served as its first music director and conductor. Sixty-eight musicians performed at the first concert on December 11, 1925, before an audience of approximately 4,000 at the First Baptist Church auditorium. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra presented its earliest concerts in the Will Rogers Auditorium. The FWSO again disbanded, in 1943, during World War II. In 1957, Morris again revived the orchestra, whose musicians initially performed without salary, and provided general organisational leadership. Interim conductors included Robert Hull, Rudolf Kruger, and Ralph R. Guenther. Starting in the 1968-1969 season, the FWSO concerts were held in the Fort Worth Convention Center Auditorium, and with the 1998-1999 season, they moved to their current home, the world class Bass Performance Hall. The orchestra had offices and held rehearsals in Orchestra Hall starting in the early 70's until 2001 when they moved to their current home, the Maddox Muse Center, across the street from Bass Hall.
John Giordano, then conductor of the Youth Orchestra of Greater Fort Worth and the Texas Christian University Symphony, became the FWSO's music director in 1972 holding that position until 2000, the longest-serving music director in the FWSO's history. Giordano was a charismatic leader and very effective fundraiser. During his tenure, the Texas Little Symphony (latter renamed to the Fort Worth Chamber Orchestra) was formed as a full time chamber ensemble and served as a professional core for the FWSO, this allowed them to start attracting world class talent which began the transition of the orchestra from a very good regional per-service part-time orchestra to a world-class full time salaried ensemble. The Concerts In The Garden Summer Festival began in 1991, and takes place each June-July at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. The FWSO also serves as the host Orchestra for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, held every 4 years in Fort Worth, accompanying the finalists in the last stages of the competition. In 1998, the FWSO took up its current residence at the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall. Giordano now has the title of conductor emeritus of the FWSO. In 2000, Miguel Harth-Bedoya succeeded Giordano as FWSO music director.
In September 2016, the FWSO musicians took industrial action and went on strike. On December 8, almost three months after the strike, an anonymous donor gave $700,000 USD to help close the orchestra's deficit. This allowed the two sides to come to an agreement of keeping musicians' salaries at its current levels for the first two years, followed by a 2% raise the third year and a 2.5% raise the fourth year.
In May 2018, the FWSO announced that Harth-Bedoya is to conclude his music directorship of the orchestra, and subsequently to take the title of conductor laureate.
On Independence Day 2020, FWSO presented the FWSO America Strong Concert – Celebrating the best of America in a challenging time. It was hosted by Mark Istook and broadcast from Dickies Arena on WFAA-TV Channel 8 ABC Dallas-Fort Worth – there was no in-person audience due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Guest artists included soprano Megan Koch of Fort Worth Opera, Texas Ballet Theater, pianist Fei-Fei of The Cliburn, and baritone Major Attaway.
- Brooks Morris (1925-1943)
- Robert Hull (interim conductor; 1957)
- Rudolf Kruger (interim conductor)
- Ralph R. Guenther (interim conductor; 1963–1965)
- Ezra Rachlin (1965–1972)
- John Giordano (1972–2000)
- Miguel Harth-Bedoya (2000-2020)
The orchestra's most recent recordings, some of which are released on their own label, include:
- Sentimiento Latino with Juan Diego Flórez (Decca)
- Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E. Minor, Opus 64
- Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf (Michael York, narrator)
- The Composers Voice, Volume I featuring the music of Gabriela Lena Frank and Kevin Puts (Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra)
- INTI, Three Centuries of Peruvian Music (Filarmonika)
- Asleep At The Wheel with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
- Prokofiev: Piano Concertos Nos 2 and 5 (Vadym Kholodenko, pianist; harmonia mundi)
- George Studdard (22 November 2016). "Letter to the Editor: 'Rebuild orchestra'". Fort-Worth Star Telegram. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
- Cooper, Michael (16 September 2016). "A Strike Stops the Music of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
- Cooper, Michael (8 December 2016). "Fort Worth Symphony Strike Ends as Donor Rides to the Rescue". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
- "Miguel Harth-Bedoya Will Conclude Twenty Years as FWSO Music Director in 2019-2020 Season" (PDF) (Press release). Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. 10 May 2018. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
- "FWSO America Strong Concert". Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
- Robert Battey (1 July 2016). "CD reviews: Cliburn medalist takes on Prokofiev with Fort Worth Symphony". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
- Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra official website
- Musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony website
- Fort Worth Public Library Archives Inventory to the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Programs Collection