How DSO's Jaap van Zweden Turns Beethoven's 5th into Something You've Never Heard

Categories: Music Notes

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Mark Graham
"What is very important," van Zweden says, "is not to underestimate the relationship between an orchestra and its hall."
When I spoke with Dallas Symphony Orchestra Maestro Jaap van Zweden earlier this year, he told me that the Meyerson Symphony Center is, in his opinion, "probably one of the top three halls in the world."

"What is very important," he went on, "is not to underestimate the relationship between an orchestra and its hall."

See also:
- Meet Hilary Hahn, the Young Violin Star Crashing the DSO, and Maybe a School Dance, This Weekend
- Jaap Van Zweden: The Maestro (from the People Issue)

The undeniable connection the DSO has with its performance space wouldn't be as special if it weren't for a third ingredient: a very acoustically attentive conductor at its helm. From his podium, Maestro van Zweden is conducting a group of instrumentalists, but he is also filling a specific space with carefully crafted sounds. In a recent performance, the result of this hall/orchestra/maestro three-way was a concert that highlighted fantastic playing, interesting interpretations of old favorites, and rich acoustics.

The concert featured one of classical music's most recognizable and ubiquitous works, Beethoven's 5th symphony. Performances of this piece can be a bit of a snooze, but this wasn't just any Beethoven 5. It was Jaap van Zweden's Beethoven 5, a version that sounded fresh because the interpretation of its dynamics, tempi and phrasing were unique and pristinely articulated.

The first movement of the symphony was slightly predictable, but by the end of the second movement, the orchestra hit its stride. Van Zweden played with the orchestra's dynamics so effectively it sounded as if he was controlling each section with an individual volume dial. Strings swelled and died down in perfect synchronization and the horns created moving effects.

Tempos were also surprising in Jaap's interpretation of this piece. The finale, in particular, was taken at a lightening pace that was unexpected, perhaps a tad frantic, but certainly thrilling.

Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, which opened the concert, was equally as dramatic and instantly set the mood. Hilary Hahn's performance of Korngold's somewhat schmaltzy Violin Concerto was beautiful. Hahn has an incredibly easy-going stage presence that verges on casual, which is refreshing at a classical concert. She is so comfortable on stage, and with the technicalities of the repertoire, her playing becomes what playing should be: fun, for her and the audience.

This weekend marks your last chance to catch a DSO classical series concert until the new year. While last week's program was manageable in terms of length and familiarity to the masses, this week approaches darker, more challenging works. Britten's War Requiem, clocking in at around an hour and twenty minutes, is the only work on the program and will be played without intermission. But don't be scared away by the duration of this piece. It is a haunting work, memorializing those killed during both World Wars and calling passionately for peace.



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