The Dallas Symphony Orchestra is performing Beethoven's 9th symphony this weekend as part of its three-week-long Beethoven Festival and you do not want to miss it. Last night, the whole concert felt like a reminder from the DSO to its audience: "In case you forgot, we have one of the world's best concert halls and most exciting conductors. Oh yeah, and the two guys leading our violin section are bad asses."
Beethoven's final symphony takes just over an hour to perform and so the DSO opted for a very short first "half." It took just under twenty minutes for Nathan Olson and Alexander Kerr to perform Beethoven's Two Romances for Violin and Orchestra. It's a lot of fun to hear the DSO's concertmaster (Kerr) and co-concertmaster (Olson) perform these pieces back-to-back. While they both played superbly last night, Kerr's performance of Romance No. 2 in F Major won me over. Maybe the second Romance is just the better piece, but Kerr also gave it a mesmerizing performance, seducing the room with a stunningly beautiful tone. It was just nine minutes of music, but Kerr and the orchestra hit a sweet spot, captivating their audience and leaving us all wanting more.
It felt strange to get up for intermission after such a short first half -- everyone around me noted it -- but in hind-sight it was the perfect way to structure the evening. The Two Romances worked as a sort of light appetizer before a heavy meal, and the relaxed intermission gave everyone a chance to have a glass of wine and go to the bathroom before settling in for the main course.
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Last night during the main course, the DSO was at the top of its game. The strings performed like one massive, perfectly tuned organism, maximizing dramatic effects by executing every subtle dynamic shift in perfect synchronization. Both the Meyerson Symphony Center and Jaap van Zweden were built for this kind of large-scale, blow-the-roof-off performance, and the soloists and chorus were on fire.
There were so many memorable moments last night it's hard to narrow down the highlights. When the famous "Ode to Joy" tune entered for the first time in the low strings during the final movement, Van Zweden held them at a simmer, teasing out the suspense and playfully toying with the phrasing. Baritone Raymond Aceto entered with unbelievable power. The frenetic, wild effect of the four soloists singing together at the top of their voices was insane.
The DSO will perform Beethoven's Emperor Concerto next weekend with Yefim Bronfman and follow that up with Beethoven's 5th for their final performances of the season. It's hard to imagine, though, how they will top this weekend.
The DSO repeats performances of Beethoven's 9th tonight, tomorrow and Monday. Tickets and more information available here.