Günther Herbig has always produced outstanding programs with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and this weekend’s concerts are no exception. The music is highly varied, always interesting and often beautiful.
Herbig even managed to draw applause on Thursday night for a highly atypical (for the DSO) work: Lutoslawski’s modernistic Livre pour Orchestre, which combines, among other things, aggressive outbursts, “between the notes” pitches and some controlled improvisation by the orchestra’s musicians.
The guest conductor started the piece with a brief lecture in which he prepared the audience for what they were about to hear and even invited his listeners to boo at the end if they didn’t like it.
The work is quite atmospheric when it’s not stormy and includes some attractive passages for quiet strings and other sections of the orchestra. Particularly surprising and appealing was some lyrical writing for percussion instruments. The improvised parts came off quite well and didn’t seem at all chaotic.
I think I heard one boo at the end, but the audience response was favorable if not ecstatic.
In sharp contrast was Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, which followed. An exceptional violinist, Karen Gomyo, gave a precise, graceful performance that ranged from lovingly lyrical to chipper. Herbig and the orchestra seconded her graceful and spirited approach.
The high point for me was Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, whose allegretto grazioso is one of the most beautiful symphonic movements ever written. Herbig captained a brilliant performance full of subtleties and strengths. It was a performance to keep you humming for a long time afterward.
The program will be repeated tonight through Sunday afternoon. Highly recommended.