In a month marked by pioneering modernism, concert standards take a backseat to rarely performed masterpieces by the likes of Charles Ives, Gyorgy Ligeti and Bela Bartok (yes, more Bartok, again!). The nights are now longer, and the air is taut with its first chills of the season--it's just the right time for some dark, challenging music. At least, that's what some of this month's selections might tell you; there's even some leftover Halloween-style horror film music for you to chew on. This is your November in Dallas classical music.
Nov. 6, 8: The Dallas Symphony Orchestra Presents Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. First performed in the United States by our very own Southern Methodist University, Bartok's one-act opera is a psychologically harrowing tale of a newlywed couple and their disturbing castle home. As with most performances of the opera, the DSO presents Bluebeard's Castle, not as a staged production, but in concert. A firm believer in the synthesis of peasant music with classical forms, Bartok's sole opera combines elements of Hungarian folk with heavy nods to Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande. Much like the narrative, the music throughout is at turns enchanting and unsettling. Jaap van Zweden conducts a program that also includes Mozart's Symphony No. 25. For tickets and more information visit mydso.com. Nov. 7-9: The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Presents Hitchcock! Halloween might be over but the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra still has some celebrating to do. Conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya leads the FWSO in an evening showcasing the best of Alfred Hitchcock's film scores. This includes quite inarguably some of the finest music ever put to motion picture: compositions by the likes of Bernard Hermann, Lyn Murray and Dmitri Tiomkin. Scenes from the corresponding Hitchcock masterworks -- To Catch A Thief, Vertigo, and North By Northwest -- will accompany the orchestra's renditions on Bass Hall's large viewing screen. Following Sunday's performance, the audience is invited to meet and mingle with the FWSO's musicians in Bass Hall's Grand Lobby. For tickets and more info visit fwsymphony.org
Nov. 12: The Nasher Presents Cellist Alisa Weilerstein in Recital The fifth anniversary season of The Nasher's Soundings concert series begins with cellist Alisa Weilerstein in recital. And the offering is really something special. Before Bach's six cello suites, there existed exactly zero compositions for solo cello. They remain some of the finest pieces of music Bach - or anyone for that matter - ever wrote for a string instrument. The naked structure of these works (they're lone instrumental efforts, after all) is a gift to all who admire the craft of music making--the beauty, complexity and miraculous vision of Bach are laid bare here for all to experience. Including both major and minor-key pieces, these suites run the gambit from dark to light, from enthusiastic to firmly anguished. Solo cello works by Benjamin Britten, Osvaldo Golijov and Zoltan Kodaly are also set to appear. Tickets and more info at nashersculpturecenter.org
Nov 13: SMU Meadows' New Music Ensemble Performs Ligeti Take notice Dallas avant-garde fans, we don't get chances like this very often. Aventures and its slightly more structured "sequel" Nouvelles Aventures are amongst Gyorgy Ligeti's most fascinating works. Composed for three singers and instrumental septet, these miniature anti-operas (what the composer termed "mimodramas") are equal parts haunting, hilarious, and otherworldly. Complete with an imagined, almost animalistic language, these pieces present a non-sequitur drama concerning five emotions (ranging from desire to terror), each personified at different times by the three singers. Absurd, even deliciously grotesque, this is one modern masterstroke for which the term abstract isn't nearly strong enough. Guest Patrick Dupré Quigley conducts a program that also includes works by Mason Bates, Mayke Nas and Igor Santos. To top it off: the event, held at Caruth Auditorium, is free. More info at smu.edu/meadows.
Nov. 15: The Plano Symphony Orchestra Presents The Rite Of Spring at Eisemann Center While the infamous riot following the premier of The Rite of Spring has now passed into memory, the world of music is still coping with the aftershock of Stravinsky's rhythmic giant. In effect, composers are still learning how to sound this large, this visceral (in those final moments of the "Sacrificial Dance", it still sounds like the world is threatening to teeter off its axis). It's no wonder the score remains one of the most performed and beloved concert pieces in the literature. Hector Guzman conducts a program that includes Brahm's challenging Violin Concerto, helmed by current SMU faculty member and former DSO Concertmaster Emanuel Borok. Tickets and additional information at planosymphony.org
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Nov. 18: Dallas Chamber Symphony Presents Charles Ives' Symphony No. 3 Regarded as the founder of the art music tradition in America -- he's also considered, alongside Schoenberg, the first atonalist -- Charles Ives is arguably the most important composer the U.S. ever produced. Which means that anytime the man's work receives a stage, especially locally, it deserves attention. Despite being one of the modernist's less radical pieces, Ives' Symphony No. 3 (The Camp Meeting) remains a rarely performed composition. American hymn tunes and European classical traditions inform what is a pastoral, nostalgic and ruggedly American masterpiece--a stroke of genius that rightly earned The Pulitzer Prize For Music in 1947. Two gifted soloists (violinist Chloe Trevor and 2014 Dallas International Piano Competition winner Kyle Orth) complete the program with Vaughan-Williams' The Lark Ascending and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 respectively. Tickets and more info at dallaschambersymphony.org