By Connor Yearsley
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra opened its new concert season in spectacular fashion this past weekend at the Meyerson Symphony Center in downtown Dallas.
The program seemed purposefully well-rounded, evoking an array of emotions and showing off a wide range of the orchestra’s capabilities.
Why the performance wasn’t sold out is hard to understand. It definitely should have confirmed to new patrons that their decision to subscribe was a good one, and should have reminded returning patrons why they renewed their subscriptions.
Conductor and music director Jaap van Zweden, as per usual, neglected no detail. He conveyed both the tender moments and the rousing moments demonstratively to the orchestra and displayed why he was named Musical America’s Conductor of the Year last season.
The national anthem was played first, as is customary at the first concert of the season.
Berlioz’ “Roman Carnival Overture,” started the program with a dramatic flourish that displayed a unity from the orchestra that would not falter for the remainder of the piece, or the program for that matter.
The English horn solo was played delicately and evoked an almost oxymoronic feeling of jovial solemnity. Most of the latter part of the overture was made up of flurries of excited activity, graced with tambourine trills and the power of the Dallas Symphony’s brass section.
The lush beauty of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor made up the bulk of the first half of the concert. The opening flourish immediately established the virtuosity of acclaimed pianist Joaquín Achúcarro.
He played with a masterful amount of emotive finesse, which brought with it an innate sense of easiness. His touch was, at times, maybe even a little too light, occasionally getting overpowered by the strings during the call and response sections and the climactic crescendos.
The aggressive moments of the first movement were short-lived, with Achúcarro and the orchestra always returning lovingly to the romantic main theme.
Achúcarro played the abundance of runs throughout the second and third movements with the skill that might fool the audience into believing what they were hearing wasn’t difficult.
Afterward, the audience gave a standing ovation and Achúcarro rewarded it with an unaccompanied encore. Both the orchestra and the audience listened attentively to the expressiveness and the ease with which he executed his trills and other ornamentations and gave him another ovation.
The impressionism of Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun” was a nice, placid way to start the second half. Decorated with harp runs and interjections from other solo instruments, the piece stood in stark contrast to the “Pines of Rome” that followed.
Respighi’s symphonic poem “Pines of Rome” was the marquee piece, ending the program.
It opened with a bustle of sound that, while vibrant, might have been a little too frantic. The bright sound of the horns and the glockenspiel complemented each other nicely, though.
The brass entrance at the top of the climaxing string runs in the second movement was extremely pulse-pounding and grandiose.
And all the stops were pulled out for the finale. By the end, even with an ear infection, I’m not sure I’ve heard the hall filled with a more magnificent sound, and that’s saying something.
Additional brass players were placed in the balcony above the choral terrace and the stage, providing a surround-sound experience, and the organ was also cranking. After van Zweden’s cutoff, the sound took a noticeable amount of time to echo through the hall
before dissipating. Altogether, the performance seemed amazingly shorter than it really was.
This coming weekend the Dallas Symphony will play Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” which is also sure to be spectacular.
Tickets are available at www.dallassymphony.com