Jaap van Zweden Conducts Mahler 2
February 23-25 | 2018
Jaap van Zweden CONDUCTS
Dorothea Röschmann SOPRANO
Michelle DeYoung MEZZO-SOPRANO*
Dallas Symphony Chorus: Joshua Habermann DIRECTOR
Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection"
Mahler reimagines Beethoven’s Ninth on an even grander scale, as man’s anguished quest for the meaning of life.
“A great Mahler interpreter.” D Magazine
- It doesn't get much better than this: a stunning Mahler Second Symphony from JVZ and the DSO
by Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
Those violins! Those violas and cellos! Even the basses, not one of the orchestra's strongest sections, dispatched very exposed parts with razor-sharp precision. Winds played with finesse and elegance. Brasses entered with charged hushes, elsewhere releasing apocalyptic assaults. A powerhouse horn section was led by former principal David Cooper, back for a break from the Berlin Philharmonic.
The Dallas Symphony Chorus, enlarged on the occasion, has been honed into an ensemble as focused in pianissimo as in fortissimo, thanks to director Joshua Habermann. Dorothea Röschmann wasn't the subtlest soprano soloist I've heard in the piece, but she sang ardently and delivered the decibels. Mezzo Michelle DeYoung had the earth-mother tones, but also the loveliest way of floating those upward intervals. Her "Urlicht" was sheer magic.
Van Zweden isn't one to keep his powder dry, and it wasn't long before it seemed all possible sound had been released. All extremes of dynamics were explored to the max. But balances were fastidiously gauged, inner voices coming through without ever making a fuss.
Early on, van Zweden seemed to underline Wagnerian touches I'd never noticed before. Elsewhere one could only wonder at sometimes garish colors and textures unprecedented, as far as I know, in Western art music. How did Mahler think of them? It's a high compliment when a performance makes us hear a thrice-familiar piece afresh.
Jaap Van Sweden conducts the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as they perform Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C minor, "Resurrection" at the Meyerson Symphony Center on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (Rex C. Curry/Special Contributor)
(Rex C Curry/Special Contributor)
Van Zweden's fast tempos were certainly mobile. The finale's "Allegro energico," prefaced by a hair-raising percussion crescendo, suggested something close to desperation, as if hell's flames were licking at the music. That actually made sense as a prelude to the chorus-and-soloists' assurance of resurrection. Slower tempos never dragged, but never felt hurried.
In the finale, van Zweden fastidiously calculated the building and intermittent relaxation of tension until the chorus' heroic proclamation, undergirded by thundering organ, "Rise again, yes, you will rise again." (Translations were projected overhead.) Yes, there were chills down the back and lumps in the throat. It doesn't get much better than that.
It was nice, by the way, to see Morton Meyerson, who coordinated the design and building of the elegant and sonically glorious concert hall that bears his name, singing in the chorus' bass section. (He's now chairing the DSO's music director search committee.) How lucky Dallas has been to have his leadership.
- The Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus deliver a stellar performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones
Dallas — Plato once said that music gives soul to the universe and wings to the mind. That quote kept going through my awareness on Friday evening as Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony delivered a superlative performance of Mahler’s gigantic Symphony No. 2. Perhaps I was reminded of Plato because the symphony deals with nothing less than the meaning of life, the inevitability of death and the assurance of resurrection. The DSO magnificently delivered Mahler’s message.
Van Zweden was the superb conductor that he can be and stayed out of his own way. There was none of his micromanaging to be seen, nor was he tense or overly demanding. He appeared to be calm, the controlling eye of the musical hurricane that swirled around him. He was also in complete command because it was given rather than demanded. Some tempi were unusual but made sense in context of his performance.
The audience sat in rapt attention as van Zweden led both orchestra and listener on a trip through Mahler’s mind. When it was over, the huge ovation was as much for us and our newly gained understanding of life’s big questions as it was for the performers. It was hard to believe that 90 minutes had passed.
Rather than give well-deserved and detailed kudos to individual players and sections, let me summarize by saying that the orchestra delivered a nearly flawless performance. Yes, there were the inevitable human errors here and there, but that is why live music will never be conquered by highly edited recordings.
The Dallas Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Joshua Habermann sat quietly for more than an hour, never moving, as though they were a painted backdrop. Their first entrance was so hushed that, at first, it was impossible to tell where the sound came from. Then, the listener remembered that the chorus was there.
In a coup de théâtre, van Zweden kept them seated during all of the quiet singing and then they all leapt up with the first fortissimo.
Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung took a while to get her voice warmed up when she started her solo. And why not, after sitting silently for so long a time? But once she started it was entrancing. Soprano Dorothea Röschmann lacked the limpid line that one hopes for, but she also sang better as the piece continued, and had the power required later.
My only hesitation in giving a complete rave is dynamics. True, this is a difficult piece to modulate. Mahler freely writes triple forte throughout the score and van Zweden made the most of all of them without overblowing or exaggeration. Yes, Mahler’s explosive fright scream that opens the last movement was truly terrifying. The last five minutes or so have one big triple forte moment after another. But, I couldn’t help but regret that van Zweden didn’t save a single decibel to bestow on the last chords.
In the end, performances like this one carefully build one note at a time. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is credited with saying that architecture starts when you place the first two bricks carefully together. Many times a performance just remains a pile of promising bricks and we in the audience are asked to imagine what the structure will be from the size of the pile. Last night, every brick was in place and Mahler’s towering symphony stood, pristine, in all its glory.