With Jaap van Zweden conducting elsewhere through mid-April, a parade of guest conductors will guide the Dallas Symphony Orchestra through the next few weeks. The first guest is a major one: Leonard Slatkin. He opened in the Meyerson Symphony Center on Thursday night with a program that sandwiched a new work between two oldies.
The new one was a harp concerto, Never Far Away, by the Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng, who was present. The soloist was a mightily impressive virtuoso harpist, Yolanda Kondonassis. Never Far Away mixes Chinese and Western elements. The large orchestra is Western (with plenty of percussion), while the material it plays has some of the flavor of Chinese folk music — a frequent characteristic of Sheng’s compositions.
Overall it is a highly original, well varied and sophisticated concerto (despite the folk influence). It’s a joint commission of the DSO and a handful of other orchestras, and a recording on Telarc, with Kondonassis and the San Diego Symphony, is scheduled for release next fall.
By the way, Kondonassis, who was making her Dallas debut, is a former student of DSO principal harpist Susan Dederich-Pejovich.
The rest of the concert was conventional. It included a rollicking performance of Rossini’s Overture to La Gazza Ladra and a decent performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony highlighted by an eloquent slow movement.
The program will be repeated Friday through Sunday.