Watch the video of retired DSO exec Mark Melson’s memories of the DSO’s moving tribute to Mata.
Twenty years ago this week, the conductor who helped build the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Eduardo Mata, died in a plane crash. Tonight, the orchestra honors his memory with a piece Mata conducted at his first Dallas concert.
In the world of classical music, Mexico City native Eduardo Mata was a youngster when he began his 16-year Dallas run. Mary Reynolds, a first section violinist for nearly 4 decades was hired by Mata. She says the then 35 year-old maestro was already rising star with an RCA record contract to boot.
“It was important for the DSO because it was an ongoing contract, on a yearly basis probably two to three recordings a year. I think it put the DSO on the map in a very viable way,” Reynolds said.
She also loved the way Mata interpreted Mexican composers and music with Mexican themes. Mata’s recording of Copland’s El Salon Mexico is her favorite recording of the work.
“For us it was really kind of revolutionary to play those works of Moncayo and of course the Chavez we’re playing this week, the Sinfonia India. But also the Copland El Salon Mexico because with Eduardo the tempi are absolutely perfect.”
Bass player Clifford Spohr, with the orchestra more than half a century, says Mata also brought a goal of musical perfection.
“His legacy is precision. He had us playing so precisely it just set the standard for our playing. We try to live up to that, still.”
Equally impressive was Mata’s calm under pressure. Principal percussionist Doug Howard remembers Mata conducting the orchestra about when he started in 1977. The lead violinist made a mistake, starting a solo early. It could have been disaster.
“And without skipping a beat, Eduardo started cuing people to come in one at a time and it was as if nothing ever happened. I mean the audience couldn’t have known. He didn’t allow it to get out of control. He just fixed it. On the spot. I went home and said this man’s a genius.”
Mata’s tenure with Dallas ended in 1993. He was about to start a new position leading the New Zealand Symphony when he died. The DSO held a memorial concert for him then. Some remember it as one of the most moving events they’ve ever seen at the Meyerson.
This weekend’s performances show that two decades later, memories of Mata’s passion for music run as deep as the musicians’ love and appreciation of the maestro.