High drama, but mixed approaches in Dallas Symphony's Bach St. Matthew Passion

Dallas Morning News
By: Scott Cantrell

With the rediscovery of baroque instruments and performance styles in recent decades, concerts of major Bach and Handel works by modern symphony orchestras have come to seem a bit awkward--too loud, too lush, too unsubtle for the music at hand.

But there's a place for, say, the Bach St. Matthew Passion on an orchestra's playlist, exposing a great masterpiece to season subscribers who wouldn't venture out to a period-instruments performance by the Dallas Bach Society (revelatory as that can be). And more and more conductors and orchestras have become more versatile in adopting what we now understand to be baroque performance styles.

Leading the St. Matthew Passion Thursday night at the Meyerson Symphony Center, Jaap van Zweden was remarkably persuasive in coaxing stylish Bach from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. With the orchestra divided into two alternating and sometimes echoing halves, the lightness of approach fit music composed for instruments softer than ours, and van Zweden kept the music buoyant and boldly shaped. 

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