There’s almost an overabundance of symphonic crowd-pleasers in the area this weekend. Thursday night the Dallas Symphony Orchestra played listenable music by Higdon, Rachmaninoff and Dvorak. Then, on Friday night, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra opened its series with an all-Tchaikovsky program that included the composer’s greatest work, the Pathétique Symphony.
The Fort Worth program, a huge success, introduced a musically captivating conductor, Mei-Ann Chen, a native of Taiwan who has been in the United States for the last 20 years.
She opened with a superb account of the Romeo and Juliet Overture and then proceeded to a deeply emotional performance of the Pathétique. (For Saturday’s and Sunday’s concerts she’ll add Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest).
Her athletic conducting style almost seems at odds with the subtlety of her interpretations. Her performances have a high drama quotient, but tempos and dynamics are highly fluid and often result in impressively graceful lyrical passages. The famous third-movement march of the Pathétique brought an outburst of heavy applause before the final movement could begin, but that’s OK — it would be unnatural not to applaud what is arguably the most exciting movement in all of symphonic literature.
She got a standing-O, of course, but what is more impressive, the orchestra gave her a rare foot-stomping “drum roll” rather than the more usual polite bow taps.