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Review: Jaap van Zweden Debuts as DSO’s Music Director


by Olin Chism 12 Sep 2008

Read music critic Olin Chism’s review of van Zweden conducting Mozart and Mahler with the DSO below, check out what others are saying, and tell us what you think: What others are saying: Dallas Morning News Star Telegram Review Jerome Weeks’ KERA radio story on van Zweden. Olin Chism’s review: So far, so good. The […]

CTA TBD

Read music critic Olin Chism’s review of van Zweden conducting Mozart and Mahler with the DSO below, check out what others are saying, and tell us what you think:

What others are saying:
Dallas Morning News
Star Telegram Review
Jerome Weeks’ KERA radio story on van Zweden.

Olin Chism’s review:

So far, so good. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s audiences still have a lot to learn about Jaap van Zweden, but his first two appearances as the orchestra’s music director provided plenty of thrills and significantly enhanced his local reputation. The cheers at the close of each concert made it clear that many who had come out of idle curiosity had become fans.

A gala concert on Wednesday spotlighted Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. This was repeated on Thursday night, the official season-opener. What had been an excellent performance became something better on repetition.

My own feelings about Mahler are mixed. At its best, music such as the Symphony No. 4, the song cycles with orchestra and some of the symphonic slow movements are deeply moving musical gems. But the grotesqueries and prolixity of many of the other symphonies are off-putting.

Perhaps that’s the point of one story told about the great conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. He was in the audience for a performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. He thought it went very well, so at the end he went backstage. He congratulated the conductor on a fine performance of a difficult score, but then asked, “Do you really think it was worth it?”

On Wednesday night the DSO gave a fine performance of the work, and Van Zweden’s vivid interpretation of it was never boring, though it seemed a little on the wild side. Still, I found myself admiring it without ever being emotionally caught up in it.

That changed on Thursday night, when the performance seemed subtler and more controlled. The adagietto was simply gorgeous, and much else was engrossing (and not just something to admire objectively). The orchestra was in great form, with lovely string sounds and solid solo and sectional playing elsewhere.

That would have been worth the price of admission, but there was something else: a first-class performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25, with the classy pianist Emanuel Ax at the keyboard and Van Zweden conducting a substantial DSO (no chamber music, this).

There’ll be three more performances Friday night through Sunday afternoon in the Meyerson Center. If it keeps getting better, Sunday afternoon should blow them away.

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