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DSO's cheerful recipe: Lively and Lyrical Music-Making

by Olin Chism 29 Apr 2011 10:28 AM

There’s plenty of musical pleasure to be had in this weekend’s concerts by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Lively and lyrical works by Richard Strauss and Haydn spotlight the talents of a guest conductor and a DSO principal.


There’s plenty of musical pleasure to be had in this weekend’s concerts by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. There are three pieces by Richard Strauss, two of which are actually rare and stylistically unlike the Strauss most music-lovers know. There’s one work by Haydn, who’s so rarely played around here that you’d think he was an obscure composer. And the performances by guest conductor Douglas Boyd and the DSO were especially vivid and at times quite lyrical.

To deal with the one Dallas-familiar work first, Strauss’s impudent Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks on Thursday night was full of life, wit and fine playing in various sections of the orchestra as well as overall. With increased energy there was some loss of clarity at peak moments, but that’s not a bad tradeoff.

Strauss’s rarely performed Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra spotlighted one of the DSO’s excellent principals, Erin Hannigan, in a performance that was full of lyrical grace and good cheer. The concerto is lighter in texture than typical Strauss (some passages make me think, somewhat incongruously, of Mozart). What is astonishing about it is that it was composed when Strauss was 81, yet seems fresh and full of youthful ideas.

The “Fireside Reverie” of Strauss — a kind of intermezzo to his opera Intermezzo — is a lovely work that found the DSO’s strings in top form.

Boyd, a youthful British conductor, led a spirited performance of Haydn’s Drum Roll Symphony — wonderful, feel-good music that might cheer up an incurable misanthrope. There was energy (see the remark about “clarity” above) in a performance brimful of wit.

Haydn had to have been one of the most psychologically sound composers. Why don‘t we hear more of his music? Maybe he’s too upbeat in a downbeat age.

There will be repetitions of the program in the Meyerson Center through Sunday. The Intermezzo intermezzo will be omitted tonight.