There may be some who view the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s annual gala as primarily a society affair, rather than a musical one. There’s an element of the former, of course, but the music-making in Saturday night’s edition was so magnificent that it pushed all other elements into the background.
The musical participants were conductor Jaap van Zweden, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and violinist Joshua Bell.
Placing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 at the end of the program gave it pride of place, I suppose, and certainly its performance was topnotch. Bell’s playing was powerful and accurate and, with the superb collaboration of Van Zweden and the DSO, the concerto became both a dramatic statement and a marvelously lyrical one.
However, as fine as that was, what preceded the Bruch appealed to me even more. This was all-Wagner, including the preludes to Acts 1 and 3 and the bridal chorus, all from Lohengrin; and “The Entrance of the Guests” from Tannhäuser.
We probably hear more Bruch than Wagner at Dallas Symphony Orchestra programs, or at least it seems that way, but the awe-inspiring interpretations of Van Zweden’s Wagner Saturday night and the superb performances of the orchestra and chorus made amends for that deficiency.
Moments such as the entrance of the brass at the dramatic peak of the prelude to Act 1 were hair-raising, the DSO’s strings were magnificent throughout, and the chorus was accurate, subtle and powerfully dramatic when Van Zweden called for grand sounds.
The whole program was an awesome demonstration of Van Zweden’s mastery and the thought occurred to me: What a great thing it would be if the Dallas Opera would produce the Ring once more with him in the pit. It’ll probably never happen, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming, is there?