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DSO's Season-Ending Program Both Mighty and Charming


by Olin Chism 20 May 2011

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is bringing its regular season to a close this weekend with Beethoven’s mightiest creation and Shostakovich’s most charming work.

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The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is bringing its regular season to a close this weekend with Beethoven’s mightiest creation and Shostakovich’s most charming work (“charming” being an adjective not usually applied to the music of that gloomy artist).

The Beethoven is his Ninth Symphony, which was given a brilliant performance Thursday night in the Meyerson Symphony Center.

Jaap van Zweden’s account of the piece was full of subtlety yet supercharged in its most dynamic moments. I don’t think I’ve ever heard those mysterious opening measures more engrossingly played. The scherzo was full of propulsive energy, the adagio was haunting and the great finale was mighty in its impact.

The Dallas Symphony Chorus (there was no scaling back on this one) was glorious and the orchestra was in top form both as a cohesive whole and in its constituent parts.

The four vocal soloists, while important, are really not at the forefront of a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth. The possible exception is the bass, and in Luca Pisaroni the DSO had a fine one, with a strong and lyrical voice. Also performing commendably were tenor Russell Thomas, mezzo Gigi Mitchell-Velasco and soprano Jeanine Thames (who stepped in on short notice to sub for the ill Sabina Cvilak).

In sharp contrast to Beethoven’s Ninth was Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 for piano, trumpet and strings, which opened the program. This good-natured, often impish work was a pure delight. Fifteen-year-old pianist Conrad Tao gave a performance that was full of personality (and impressive technique), DSO principal trumpeter Ryan Anthony collaborated smoothly, and Van Zweden and the orchestra gave firm support.

The program will be repeated through Sunday before the DSO turns to other things.

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