Saturday night's Dallas Symphony Orchestra gala was a Jaap van Zweden one-two punch. After conductor Zweden led the orchestra in its opening performance of the season, his daughter, sexy socialite Anna-Sophia (above, right), put on one hell of an after party for the glitzy black-tie crowd.
In addition to raising money for the symphony and its education programs and functioning as a sort of prom-for-your-mom evening out, the gala gave attendees a taste for what is to come this season with meticulous performances of familiar melodies and a chance to hear superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma collaborate with Jaap van Zweden and the DSO.
The concert started late; it was well after 9 p.m. before the first strains of Dvorák's New World Symphony filled the room. Tux-clad and gown-draped, the crowd seemed to be riding a high from dinner, drinks, and near-perfect weather as they took their time filtering into the hall and settled into plush seats. Kudos to the chairs of the event and the orchestra's brand new president, Jonathan Martin, for keeping opening remarks short and sweet, getting the concert started without too much tedious delay.
Jaap van Zweden's interpretation of Dvorák's New World Symphony was unique and meticulously executed. Part of the reason van Zweden is such a great conductor is that he is innovative in his performances, always thinking, listening, planning, and making a statement with tempo choices and phrasings, avoiding predictability in familiar works. Such nuanced and detailed performances can be fascinating during a regular season concert, but seemed to lack the kind of soul and drama the gala-drunk crowd craved.
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One of the more beautiful moments came in the slow second movement. Dvorák's use of a hauntingly beautiful American folk tune in this movement is always touching, but the orchestra played with such perfect sensitivity and dynamic control, the room seemed filled with the sort of homesick longing the melody evokes at its best. Unfortunately, these touching moments felt like a bit of a downer in the midst of the evening's festivities. After the final movement, the orchestra somewhat awkwardly played a mid-concert encore, performing a far-less nuanced and wildly dramatic version of one of Dvorák's famous Slavic Dances (G-minor, Op. 46, No. 8).
The main event Saturday night, following the encore, was a performance of Schumann's Cello Concerto featuring one of classical music's most recognizable stars. Yo-Yo Ma's performance was not overly virtuosic or showy, but his musicianship and engaging personality were most definitely on display. In addition to playing with sensitivity and palpable joy, his performance highlighted the connection between orchestra and soloist with perfect moments of ensemble. Throughout the piece, Yo-Yo Ma was visibly engaging with the first-chair cellist and concertmaster. The best soloists are great listeners. And Yo-Yo Ma was so clearly tuned into what the orchestra was doing, the work felt like an intimate duet.
After the concert, the Meyerson lobby was transformed and drinks flowed. DJ Lucy Wrubel was the perfect choice to hype the crowd and fill the dance floor with a loud, top-twenty driven playlist. Watching middle-aged white men dance in tuxes can transport you to wedding receptions past and future. But with an open bar and crisp, fall-like weather in the garden, it was the kind of wedding reception you didn't want to leave, and you may not fully remember the next morning.