If the Dallas Symphony Orchestra can keep generating the kind of excitement it produced on Thursday night, this should be a smashing season. The season-opener, in the Meyerson Symphony Center, paired two exceptional musicians, pianist Emanuel Ax and conductor Jaap van Zweden, in one of Brahms’ heftiest masterpieces. This was followed by a superb performance of Prokofiev’s finest symphonic work.
Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 is a large-scaled composition. Ax’s interpretation, muscular and dramatic at its high points, gracefully lyrical when it needed to be, seemed right on the money. Ax is one of today’s master pianists — and, thankfully, not given to physical showboating.
Van Zweden was right with him, with two dramatic outer movements and a lovely, moving adagio. The orchestra was in fine shape; the strings were impressive and so were the solos in other sections. The solo work of David Cooper, a newcomer to the horns, seemed a happy promise of things to come.
Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 was full of life in Van Zweden’s interpretation. It has one of the loveliest slow movements in Prokofiev’s catalogue, and here the DSO’s strings produced exceptionally lyrical sounds. There was plenty of excitement as well. The often manic finale went like a whirlwind.
The work is too rarely played around here. Here’s hoping it returns again in a few more years. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a performance of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 7, one of his most beautiful creations.
Van Zweden and the orchestra opened the concert with The Star-Spangled Banner in a kind of smoothed-out arrangement and moderate tempos. It was more reflective than inspiring — perhaps fitting as 9-11 approaches.
At intermission, a significant portion of the audience exited. These days an hour-and-a-half or two-hour program seems to tax the patience of some people.
Van Zweden got some laughs when he held up the second half until an outside noise ceased and then continued holding until all the late-returnees were seated.
The program will be repeated tonight, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This shouldn’t be missed.