Dallas music lovers learned on Wednesday that the Dallas Symphony’s music director Jaap van Zweden has accepted the post of music director of the New York Philharmonic, to complete the transition to his new job at the beginning of the 2018-19 season. Thus, what was to have been a fairly normal mid-season classical concert Friday night unexpectedly became the beginning of the end of Van Zweden’s landmark tenure with the DSO.
Ironically, Van Zweden’s lame duck administration began with a concert including a feature that hasn’t particularly been a strong point of his tenure on the Dallas podium: new music by a living composer, in this case the world premiere of American composer Jeremy Gill’s Serenada Concertante for Oboe and Orchestra, with DSO principal oboe Erin Hannigan as soloist.
Composer Gill took advantage of the oboe’s natural lyricism to create a succinct, 19-minute concerto which opens somewhat romantically, with the oboe’s long opening note emerging mystically from a cloud of strings. Although the composer’s published description of the work asserts a classical structure, the overall effect was rhapsodic and elegiac, including an extended cadenza that may well rank as the longest patch of writing for unaccompanied oboe in the entire classical repertoire. Soloist Hannigan presented this first performance of the work, written specifically for her, with flawless control and an appropriately gorgeous tone quality.
While the inclusion of new music was not typical of the DSO under Van Zweden, the unique and intriguing construction of the program (which will be repeated Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the Meyerson Symphony Center) has been a hallmark of the conductor’s years here. Well-known works of Mozart—the Overture to The Magic Flute at the beginning of the concert and the Symphony No. 39 in E-flat at the end—anchored the proceedings, providing engaging parallels with the new work by Gill, as well as with Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, which featured soloists Katia and Marielle Labèque as soloists.
As usual when he performs Mozart, Van Zweden managed a sturdy, occasionally striking approach, informed by the proto-romanticism and drama of the music without succumbing to over-romanticization. The Poulenc Concerto, one of that French composer’s most wickedly witty creations, provided a perfect foil for the Mozart works, with its delicate middle movement a tribute, parody, and dream of Mozart. The Labèques performed, as always, with a sharp precision that can best be explained as pure telepathy.
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The Dallas Symphony Orchestra performs the same program at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets at mydso.com.