The Classical Note: At the Meyerson, A Night of Musical Cowardice

Given the local musical community’s longstanding friendliness to music from off the beaten path, last Thursday’s concert by the Dallas Symphony at Meyerson Symphony Center can hardly be characterized as anything less than an exercise in musical cowardice. Three hyper-familiar works (Dvorak’s Carnival Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, and Brahms’ First Symphony), all three composed between the years 1876 and 1894 in the same high romantic, structurally conscious style, added up to a dull evening at the Meyerson.

Although the orchestra was in top-notch form and played beautifully throughout, the same could not be said of the guest conductor or soloist. Guest conductor Pablo Gonzalez raced through the opening Dvorak; violinist Nicola Benedetti opened dramatically in the Tchaikovsky, but was just barely in control in an old favorite that demands an imaginative emotional approach and total technical command.

Brahms’ First Symphony is, of course, an unassailable monument of the literature, but Gonzalez’s reading, while nicely polished, reduced this heroic vision to suavity and blandness.

At Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth on Friday night, the Fort Worth Symphony, with music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya on the podium, opened its first classical concert of the year by continuing the admirable practice of including a work by a living composer on the concert—a habit that will hopefully continue in future seasons. Iranian-born, New York-based Behzad Ranjbaran’s 16-minute, myth-inspired symphonic poem Mithra, rife with grand gestures, musical whirlwinds, and, frankly, heavy-handed orchestration, at least provided food for thought at the opening of the concert. However, this together with Richard Strauss’ brilliantly orchestrated but highly episodic tone poem Don Quixote made for a long, ear-tiring first half. Guest soloist Brinton Averil Smith, (a former principal cellist for the orchestra) provided a fine performance of the extensive cello obbligato.

A triptych of two Preludes and one Overture to Wagner operas (Die Meistersinger, Lohengrin, and the seldom-performed Rienzi) filled the second half at Bass Hall—an interesting concept that , however, failed to lend a larger sense of context to a program already weighed down with late- and neo-romanticism.

 Two Acclaimed Composers in Dallas and Fort Worth Next Weekend

Fort Worth and Dallas host two major contemporary composers next weekend, beginning on Saturday afternoon when songwriter John Bucchino joins members of the Fort Worth Opera Studio for a concert of his music at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, sponsored by the Cliburn Foundation. On Sunday evening, Pulitzer Prize winner Yehudi Wyner joins Voices of Change on a concert featuring his music as well as works of other American and Israeli composers at Caruth Auditorium on the SMU campus.

Fort Worth Opera Announces Major Commission

An announcement by Fort Worth Opera last week guaranteed that the eyes of the music world will once again be focused on Fort Worth in 2016 for the premiere of a new opera by David T. Little, with libretto Royce Vavrek. Tentatively titled JFK, the work will focus on John F. Kennedy’s final day of life, spent in Fort Worth and Dallas in November 1963—a subject sure to draw attention and possibly even controversy.

Photo: Pablo Gonzalez (Credit: D. Vass)