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DSO Winding Up Beethoven Mini-Fest in Great Form
by Olin Chism 24 Sep 2010

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s latest concert showed off an orchestra in great form and a conductor who knows how to generate excitement.


The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s mini-Beethoven festival concludes this weekend with two great works and one not-so-great. The greats are the Egmont Overture and the Symphony No. 7. The not-so-great is the Triple Concerto for violin, cello and piano with orchestra. That last work is not really bad; it just doesn’t measure up to Beethoven at his best — admittedly a high bar to clear.

Relative quality of the pieces aside, Thursday night’s concert in the Meyerson Symphony Center was brilliant. The orchestra was in great form, the soloists were distinguished, and conductor Jaap van Zweden generated the kind of excitement his audiences have come to expect.

To take the least first, the Triple Concerto was given an amiable performance by violinist Chee-Yun, cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott. Their playing was accurate, lyrical and subtle and they seemed closely attuned to one another. Van Zweden found subtlety in the work, with a super-soft opening and nice fluctuations of tempo and dynamics thereafter.

One gets the impression that Beethoven paid considerable attention to his orchestral writing in the opening movement, but then switched into automatic mode for the second and third while concentrating on the soloists. There’s a lot of beauty here, and it almost compensates for some routine orchestral writing.

The Egmont Overture, which opened the program, and the Symphony No. 7, which closed it, were given highly theatrical performances by an orchestra which was hitting on all cylinders throughout and a conductor who knows how to create musical drama. The tempo of the final movement was close to warp speed. That may be part of the reason, but surely not the sole one, that the cheers by the audience were long and loud at the conclusion.

The program will be repeated in truncated form tonight (no Egmont and no intermission) and in full on Saturday and Sunday.