The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has a program of crowd-pleasers this weekend, which may help explain the virtually full house for Thursday night’s series-opener.
Unusually for Dallas, one of the crowd-pleasers is a contemporary work, blue cathedral by Jennifer Higdon. She has a knack for composing listenable music, and blue cathedral is no exception. Written as a memorial for her late brother, Andrew, it seems more atmospheric than sad, with colorful orchestration and gracious melodic and harmonic material leavened by some pungent outbursts. Clarinet (Andrew’s instrument) and flute (Jennifer’s) have memorable solo roles.
The French conductor Stéphane Denève is this weekend’s podium guest. He began with a pleasantly accented spoken commentary on Higdon’s work and he and the DSO gave a convincing demonstration of its worth.
The program concluded with Dvorak’s great Symphony No. 7 in D minor. The orchestra was again in fine form and Denève conducted a performance that subtly explored the work’s rhythmic as well as melodic and harmonic beauties.
Unfortunately, the third crowd-pleaser, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, seemed unsubtle and uneven, with convincing passages offset by more routine work. This is clearly a minority view, since the soloist, Steven Osborne, got a rousing reception from the audience.
The program will be repeated through Sunday afternoon in the Meyerson Symphony Center. Music director Jaap van Zweden will be back next week to conduct one of the giants of symphonic literature, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9