Pure Energy | Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado impresses with a guest spot

by: Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

Dallas — Any young conductor that has a guest spot with the Dallas Symphony this season is more than likely a candidate under consideration for the post of Music Director vacated by Jaap van Zweden. Thusly guest conductor Pablo Heras-Casado was being scrutinized when he conducted a program of Debussy and Ravel on Thursday with the DSO in the Meyerson Symphony Center. He is a hot property right now. Audiences love the Spaniard as much for his curly mop of hair as for his musical performances. Critics are mixed with some waxing ecstatic and others, while praising his talent and musicianship, are waning to the more reserved side.

It was an odd experience to see him conduct. He is full of dichotomies.

Heras-Casado is energetic to a fault yet there are times when he is motionless. He crouches down to indicate a soft passage. In the big moments, he extends his arms fully but is other moments his hands barely move. Many of his downbeats go upwards and occasionally he gets to the beat slightly ahead of its true place and strikes a pose n the extra time, as though there was a photographer hidden somewhere. There were times when his, shall we say, creative technique created some audible confusion inn the orchestra. But he certainly communicates his wishes. His movements range from jerky to completely smooth and standard patterns to waving his arms without delivering a definite ictus.

He is a protégé of Pierre Boulez and that influence is evident. Like Boulez, he doesn’t use a baton. Unlike the careful and controlled conducting of Boulez he borders on the wild side of podium deportment. He reminds you of Boulez—but a Boulez on speed. (You can see an example of the cool and collected Boulez conducting Stravinsky’s brutal The Rite of Spring here; and a short example of Heras-Casado here, although it doesn’t display the range of his unique conducting technique.)

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