Monday, February 21, 2011

Now I know why the Dutch always have two As in their names......

The ASO performed a concert with works by Wagenaar, Liszt and Beethoven.  The conductor was Jaap van Zweden (  The concert began with Johann Wagenaar’s Cyrano de Bergerac overture, Opus 23.  This piece reminded me a bit of movie music, which is not Wagenaar’s fault, since he wrote it before music was scored specifically for the cinema.  The truly wonderful part of this performance, however, was the ASO itself.  Never did I hear the strings play with such strength and with such cohesion.  If this venerable institution could play like this all of the time, it would be wonderful.  I attribute this to van Zeden, who really took control of the ASO.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet  (  was the soloist in the Liszt’s first piano concerto.  We are getting blitzed this year with Liszt because it is the 200th anniversary of his birth.  Thibaudet is in the first-tier of concert pianists.  He has technical skill, strength, and musical moxie.  The concerto is played without break between its four movements, so the soloist has to have some stamina.  There appeared to be good rapport between van Zweden and Thibaudet, with the latter frequently paying attention to the conductor, whom some soloists tend to ignore. 

The concert finished with Beethoven’s Symphony No 7.  The ASO again performed brilliantly.  The piece is exuberant and maybe Beethoven’s happiest.  It has catchy melodies and, of course, wonderful thematic development.  Van Zweden showed wonderful control over the dynamics of the symphony, coaxing true pianissimos out of the players, while also getting some attention-grabbing volume from the clarinets.  The conductor continually gave instruction to the players about what he wanted and it showed in the ASO’s performance.  The only glitch is an otherwise flawless performance was a burble in the French horns in the first movement.

The Dallas Symphony is fortunate to have such a strong conductor as van Zweden.  It does certainly demonstrate that a conductor can really influence the playing of an orchestra.  

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