Seeing the Dallas Symphony This Weekend Will Be Like Seeing a Movie. Only Better.
If you go hear the Dallas Symphony this weekend at the Meyerson -- and you should -- you might find yourself feeling like you're in a beautiful movie theater. Your phone is off. It's cool and quiet. You let what you are experiencing transport you.
It's a little different, though. It's brighter. And, well, there's no movie. But the cinematic scope of all three of the pieces on this weekend's DSO program might make you feel like you're watching one.
The night begins with a short 10-minute overture by Russian romantic composer Alexander Borodin. The Overture to Prince Igor was originally imagined as an orchestral introduction to Borodin's epic Russian opera based on a 12th-century prince and, of course, it is a story of love and war. Each of the rich, sweeping themes you'll hear are extrapolated from the opera, so the work, though short, has a very dramatic, narrative feel.
After intermission, you'll hear yet another Russian masterwork in Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Mussorgsky originally composed this work for piano solo after attending an exhibition of his recently deceased friend's paintings. It's a programmatic work that depicts the composer as he moves through the exhibit and observes individual paintings
Mussorgsky's piano piece was arranged for orchestra by the French composer Maurice Ravel, and his adaptation is probably familiar even if you've never gone to a symphony hall. American conductor Leopold Stokowski, a guy whose shadowy silhouette you might recognize as the conductor at the beginning of Disney's Fantasia, also tried his hand at orchestrating Mussorgsky's piano score. It's his version the DSO performs this weekend.
Whether you're aware of it or not, your ears will probably expect to hear Ravel's instrument choices for the familiar melodies of Pictures. Because of that, Stokowski's rich, sensuous, string-driven version gives a sometimes over-played favorite a fresh perspective. Last night the orchestra played the soaring themes of this piece stunningly. With sweeping strings, bold brass, and a hugely effective sax solo, the half-hour you spend listening to this performance might be the best half-hour of your weekend.
In between all the Russians, there's a little American birthday party on the program as well. Composer Phillip Glass turned 75 this summer, so the DSO is joining other American orchestras by performing some of his works in celebration. You'll probably instantly recognize Glass' distinct, cinematic style in this 2010 work, Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra. Glass is famous for his operas and orchestral music and has also composed film scores for The Hours, The Truman Show, and Bela Lugosi's 1931 silent film, Dracula.
Glass' Double Concerto alternates between beautifully intimate unaccompanied cello and violin duets and sections for full orchestra. Guest cellist Wendy Sutter was stunning to watch and played with real fire and intensity. On the violin, Michael Guttman's intonation was guttural and scratchy, as if his violin had smoked a pack of Marlboros a day for decades. Listen for how seamlessly the two swap melodies back and forth. The driving triplets and rhythmic motives throughout this work will make you feel like you're running through a bizarre forest in a Tim Burton movie. It's gorgeous. But it's also unexpectedly strange.
Over the last two weekends, the DSO has presented programs that, while lacking in innovation and cohesion, have been sonorous showcases of the sounds this orchestra is capable of evoking. Don't miss this weekend's performance. The DSO will play again tonight at 7:30, Saturday at 8, and Sunday at 2.