The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming season will go heavy on big spectacles, orchestral showpieces and musical thrills. Music director Fabio Luisi and an array of guest conductors have built a lineup of the kind of music that fills the heart and the eardrums.
Luisi himself will conduct two monumental works by Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi’s Requiem was criticized when it debuted because listeners thought it was too dramatic and exciting, and not reverent or religious enough. That’s exactly why everyone loves it now — and presumably why it plays on Halloween weekend. Verdi’s opera Otello will receive a semi-staged “opera in concert” performance in February.
Among a slate of brand-new compositions and world premieres, the headliner is a concerto for trombone and orchestra by Bryce Dessner, multi-instrumentalist from the band The National and composer of the music in the recent Netflix movie The Two Popes. Dessner’s concerto debuts in October, but watch out in February for a brand-new work, “En otra noche, en otro mundo,” by Puerto Rican composer Angélica Negrón.
All year long, the symphony will be presenting showpieces that frequently stretch to nearly an hour. Gustav Holst’s The Planets will appear in April and May, paired with a world-premiere violin concerto by Syrian-American Kareem Roustom; Dessner’s concerto is paired with Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra. You know, this piece.
Also on the slate in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021: two epic symphonies by Dmitry Shostakovich, the Fifth (in January) and Eighth (in October); Luisi conducting Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, Anton Bruckner’s unfinished-but-still-enormous Ninth, Aaron Copland’s patriotically American Third and Franz Schmidt’s tragic and tragically rare Fourth; and Igor Stravinsky’s notorious Rite of Spring. The guest conductor for the Stravinsky is budding European superstar Krzysztof Urbanski.
In January, Luisi presents Tchaikovsky’s melodramatic and oh-so-Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony on a program that’s notable because it also includes Benjamin Britten’s piano concerto. The concerto, featuring Alessandro Taverna, is one of those crowd-pleasing splashy pieces full of vigor and excitement which, somehow, never actually became popular. Here’s a chance to right that wrong.
If all this bombast makes you yearn for an earlier time, when music was elegant, wigs were tall and harpsichords tinkled discreetly in the background, there’s an intriguing program in late May conducted by baroque specialist Paul McCreesh. In the first half, the DSO chorus and organ feature in anthems and concertos by G.F. Handel. In the second half, the chorus returns for Felix Mendelssohn’s “Hymn of Praise” symphony.
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On the pops side of the house, the orchestra will welcome Ben Folds the weekend before Labor Day, then present “The Music of Selena” in September with San Antonio-based teen sensation Isabel Marie Sánchez. Most of the rest of the year is dedicated to movie screenings, as the DSO plays along to Toy Story, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Return of the Jedi and E.T.
We’ve saved one special mention for last. In mid-April, the DSO welcomes pianist Emanuel Ax for a program that’s wildly piano-centric: Ax, evidently a sucker for punishment, will play two different concertos, one by Californian John Adams, and the other by someone named Mozart. But the evening ends with my personal choice for most fun piece of classical music to see live: Leoš Janácek’s Sinfonietta.
First of all, the Sinfonietta calls for 14 trumpets, 11 of them lined up across the back of the stage, standing, like a firing squad of noise. Second, this is one of the few works of instrumental music to have a twist ending. Don’t look up spoilers.
The DSO last played this raucous, exuberant, ridiculously brassy piece back in 2014. Maybe it’s becoming a part of the orchestra’s core repertoire. Hint.