Recently, the Dallas Symphony announced its next season, starting this fall. There’s no way it wasn’t going to be special. It’s music director Jaap van Zweden’s farewell season before he takes over the New York Philharmonic. But local All Things Considered host sat down with Art & Seek’s Jerome Weeks to find out why this particular line-up of concerts was getting attention in classical music circles. Our extended conversation:
Jerome, even I know what this is. It’s the theme from ‘A Clockwork Orange.’
I’m kidding. It’s Beethoven’s Ninth. And this is Bach. And let’s see who else is on the season. There’s more Beethoven, there’s Rachmaninoff, there’s Mozart. What I’m saying is – aren’t these what symphony orchestras play all the time? Why are people excited about this season?
Obviously, there’s a spirit of celebration in all this. Van Zweden has more or less crammed the season with glorious crowd pleasers. He’s playing the classical music version of your favorite dance party DJ.
Yeah, I noticed that Beethoven’s Ninth – the ‘Ode to Joy’ – has been saved for van Zweden’s very last concert next May. But that’s getting to be a cliché, isn’t it? Celebrating just about any special occasion by playing the ‘Ode to Joy’? I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re playing it when they open new supermarkets.
Wow. Listening to that, though, that’s pretty impressive. I wonder – what’s wrong with a season of crowd pleasers?
So if you’re going to program music like this, you gotta bring something fresh to it. It’s like a theater company staging a popular Shakespeare comedy like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ There’s nothing wrong with the choice per se. But it becomes a challenge: What are they going to do to make it come alive – this time?
Which brings up something interesting about the season. Van Zweden isn’t conducting everything we’ve mentioned — he doesn’t conduct every concert in any season. But the music he’s chosen to conduct personally here is overwhelmingly by the great German and Austrian composers: Mozart, Wagner, Bruckner, Schumann, Beethoven.
That’s the music, van Zweden said, ten years ago, he thought the DSO needed to learn. That’s the music he was going to drill into them, the German tradition.
Yeah, but among some New York critics, the one’s I’ve seen online, that’s been the knock against van Zweden. He’s too tied to this kind of music. The big traditional, mostly Germanic kind. He doesn’t really welcome new works.
So – he can do classic, he can do new.
Top photo: Mark Kitaoka.