JVZ Conducts Beethoven's Ninth
May 24-26 | 2018
Jaap van Zweden CONDUCTS
Alexander Kerr VIOLIN
Ellie Dehn SOPRANO
Michelle DeYoung MEZZO-SOPRANO*
Stuart Skelton TENOR
Matthias Goerne BARITONE
Dallas Symphony Chorus: Joshua Habermann DIRECTOR
Violin Concerto No. 2
Symphony No. 9, "Choral"
The ultimate symphony and the world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Violin Concerto No. 2 close Jaap van Zweden’s Farewell Celebration Season. With a stellar cast of internationally acclaimed soloists, this concert is not to be missed!
- With the End of Jaap van Zweden’s Reign Over the DSO Comes a World Premiere Beginning
by Eve Hill-Agnus, D Magazine
Conductor Jaap van Zweden’s last concerts with the DSO, running this weekend, feature Beethoven’s lush Ninth Symphony, hailed as the “ultimate” symphony. It’s the composer’s own ultimate symphony— as in, final. It’s the only choral symphony he composed. The Dallas Symphony Chorus will animate the fourth movement with a quartet of internationally acclaimed soloists including Matthias Goerne, a smooth baritone, and DSO artist in residence Michelle DeYoung, a warm, grounded mezzo.
Just as exciting: a world premiere by Jonathan Leshnoff, the New Jersey-born, Baltimore-based composer of symphonies, oratorios, concerti, and chamber works, whose much-lauded personal, distinctive style incorporates Jewish mysticism. The sinewy piece is structurally and harmonically complex, a striking example of a living composer and virtuosic soloist working together.
The kernel of the Violin Concerto No. 2, co-commissioned by the DSO and featuring concertmaster Alexander Kerr as soloist, was a 2015 Harrisburg Symphony performance of Leshnoff’s Double Concerto for violin and viola.
“When I met [Leshnoff], I was playing the Double Concerto,” Kerr says. “And I loved the piece.” The violinist was struck by the work’s beauty and the compositional force behind it, which he saw as “just so individualistic.”
“[Leshnoff] is unabashedly himself. Unapologetic about being soulful. About being tonally beautiful. About writing music that he believes in. And I love that about him. If classical music is going to survive into the next century, people are going to have to have their own voice. He’s one of those,” Kerr says.
- The Dallas Symphony's Season Finale Pairs Beethoven with a Major World Premiere
by Brian Reinhart, Dallas Observer
This weekend, Jaap van Zweden concludes his tenure as music director of the Dallas Symphony with performances of perhaps the most famous work in the orchestra’s repertoire: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But there’s another piece on the program, a major world premiere of a new work written especially for the DSO. And there hangs a tale: How is a big new piece of classical music born?
The composer, Jonathan Leshnoff, describes writing for the DSO, for van Zweden and for a concert that ends with Beethoven as three “grand slam home run intimidation factors.” But he’s used to it. For some reason, multiple orchestras have already commissioned him to write pieces which were then played before the Ode to Joy.
“All I can say is thank goodness it’s me and then Beethoven, it’s not Beethoven and then me,” Leshnoff says with a deep, contagious laugh, before turning serious. “I had to write a piece that’s going to go beyond the concert, and true to myself and true to what I want to do. I’ve written the piece from my heart and I believe in it, and hopefully people will go places with it, internally, within their own selves.”
The piece is his Violin Concerto No. 2, written especially for the symphony’s concertmaster, Alexander Kerr. Leshnoff met Kerr at a rehearsal for one of his previous concertos and the rapport was immediate.
“I walked into the rehearsal and there was this guy playing the violin who blew me away,” he says.
Kerr felt similarly when he first heard Leshnoff’s music.
“I loved it," Kerr says. "There was something so soulful to it. To write something that has such simplicity, it’s almost taboo. It hit my gut. He cares about the soul. He wants to express something, and he wants the audience to feel it, to get it — not to intellectually get it but to viscerally get it. It’s emotionally accessible. You can feel what he’s trying to say without looking at a program note.”
Kerr planted the idea of a new Leshnoff concerto in the minds of Dallas Symphony administrators, and when it finally happened, the orchestra gave the composer carte blanche to write anything he wished. The result — finished ahead of schedule, a rarity in a world where many artists procrastinate right up to their deadlines — reflects Leshnoff’s longtime fascination with ancient Jewish mysticism.
“I love portraying these ethereal mystical thoughts, that are so old, in music,” Leshnoff explains.
- Electricity is in the Air as van Zweden ends his DSO Tenure with Super-Size Sounds of Beethoven...
by Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
From his very first appearance with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, as a guest conductor in February 2006, it was clear that Jaap van Zweden was no ordinary time-beater. Overnight, he got new tonal richness out of the orchestra, new focus and intensity, new attention to detail.
As he began the end of his 10-year tenure as DSO music director Thursday night, all of that was on display, plus a decade of accumulated growth. It was the first of three performances of a program including the Beethoven Ninth Symphony and a new Violin Concerto No. 2 by 44-year-old American composer Jonathan Leshnoff.
Electricity was palpable in the well-filled Meyerson Symphony Center, and a long, roaring ovation exploded at the end of the Beethoven.
Tuneful, toe-tapping, vividly rhythmic, the Leshnoff is a most appealing work: neoclassical Stravinsky meets Samuel Barber meets minimalism. In a symphonic four-movement sequence, with slow movement and scherzo in the middle, it makes much of repetitive pulsings in the orchestra.
But it's minimalism with a lot of rhythmic interest — rapidly shifting meters and syncopations — and telling interplays between the soloist and, particularly, the cellos. There's plenty of flashy stuff for the violin, but also soaring lyricism. The slow movement and finale could use a little tightening, though.
Co-commissioned by the DSO and the Harrisburg (Pa.) Symphony, it was a showpiece for DSO concertmaster Alexander Kerr, who played with the utmost tonal finesse, sweetly singing phrases balancing flawless virtuosity. His instrument doesn't have a huge sound, though, and the orchestra sometimes could have been more reserved. But van Zweden and the orchestra managed a tricky score with impressive authority.