Jaap van Zweden, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and their guest soloist opened a new season on Thursday night with performances that sizzled with energy, on the one hand, and grated with eccentricity, on the other.
The sizzler was Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, an old DSO standby, which closed the concert in the Meyerson Center. If Van Zweden didn’t really make it seem new, he made it crackle with electricity (the blitzing tempo of the finale tested legal speed limits) and the DSO responded with virtuoso playing and impressive solos. There wasn’t a dull measure to be heard.
The eccentricity involved Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the soloist in Barber’s Violin Concerto. Her twitchy visual mannerisms have always been a little off-putting, but Thursday night they were too often reflected in the music, and her displays of virtuosity were not adequate compensation.
Originally the concert was to have included Barber’s Medea’s Dance of Vengeance, but this was dropped to make way for the composer’s beloved Adagio for Strings, played in memory of David R. Davidson, who died this month. It was a moving and fitting tribute to the director of the superb Dallas Symphony Chorus.
The DSO is a pretty stable orchestra, but there were a couple of changes evident Thursday night. Timpanist Kalman Cherry has retired after 51 years with the DSO (he was the senior member); Douglas Howard took his place behind the drums. And the DSO has a new principal second violinist, Angela Fuller. She takes the place of another retiree, Delmar Pettys.