Shostakovich and Beethoven
April 6-8 | 2017
Gustavo Gimeno conducts
James Ehnes violin
Symphony No. 5
Shostakovich's poignant and impassioned commentary on oppression, as well as the Beethoven Egmont Overture and James Ehnes performing Aaron Jay Kernis's Violin Concerto.
Special Concert Notice: Music Director Jaap van Zweden is unable to conduct concerts the week commencing April 3, 2017, due to family reasons.
We are pleased to welcome conductor Gustavo Gimeno to Dallas on the April 6 weekend. The program will remain the same.
- DSO and Violinist James Ehnes Introduce a Busily Virtuosic Aaron Jay Kernis Violin Concerto
by Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
The adjectives "daring," even "imaginative," don't immediately come to mind with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's programming. But in recent weeks we've had the rarely performed Britten Violin Concerto and two new works by living American composers: the Symphony No. 5 of Christopher Rouse and, on Thursday night, the Violin Concerto of Aaron Jay Kernis. Thursday's concert also introduced the young Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno, who's also booked for next season.
The Kernis concerto was jointly commissioned by the DSO (thanks to the Norma and Don Stone Fund for New Music), and the Toronto, Seattle and Melbourne (Australia) symphony orchestras. It was premiered last month in Toronto.
Thirty-two minutes long, it's nominally in the traditional three-movement sequence: fast-slow-fast. Stylistically, with textures often busy and densely layered, it represents what's been called maximalism in contemporary music. Rhythmic activity often has little to do with mostly conventional time signatures.
The solo part demands jaw-dropping virtuosity. I wonder whether any other violin concert has such extensive double-stop writing--playing two strings at once, in rapidly shifting intervals, often at breathtaking speeds. Although there's lovely lyrical writing in the slow movement, much of the solo part scurries and leaps with abandon. The outer movements have unaccompanied cadenzas, the finale including skittering mixes of bowed and plucked notes.
The first movement, Chaconne, is based on a downward chord sequence first played by the solo violin. The orchestra contributes various counterpoints, smears of brass and strings and noisy massings of brass. The mostly dreamy central Ballad savors some magical accompaniments of harp, piano and tuned percussion
- Ehnes Provides Stellar Advocacy for Kernis Concerto with Dallas Symphony
by Wayne Lee Gay, Classical Review
Aaron Jay Kernis’s Violin Concerto, still hot off the press after a premiere in Toronto last month, sprawled across 25 minutes of dense orchestration and relentless virtuosity Thursday night in a performance by soloist James Ehnes and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Gustavo Gimeno.
The first movement, titled Chaconne, opened with an explosion of percussion; Kernis clearly has no qualms about pitting a large, packed orchestra against a violin soloist, and Ehnes had no problem holding his against the large ensemble including full entourage of brass, wind, percussion, and keyboards.
The element of stately variation generally associated with the genre is not immediately evident in Kernis’s Chaconne movement; still, the first movement is packed with engaging ideas, and, in the opening section, Kernis successfully creates the aura of urban energy reminiscent of mid-20-century American symphonic composition. A Paginini-esque cadenza continues the soloist’s workout, and a surprisingly calm episode leads up to a humorous closing cadence, capped off with a single, soft, pizzicato note from the soloist.
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- The Dallas Symphony and Guest Violinist James Ehnes Make a Strong Case for a New Violin Concerto
by J. Robin Coffelt, Theatre Jones
Dallas — This weekend’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra concerts were rather disingenuously billed as “Shostakovich and Beethoven”—disingenuous because the Beethoven on the program was the 8-minute-long Egmont Overture. The real stars of the evening were, yes, the Shostakovich—his glorious Symphony No. 5 in D minor—and Aaron Jay Kernis’ new violin concerto, premiered last month and commissioned by four orchestras, among them the Dallas Symphony.
I’ll admit that “Shostakovich and Kernis” might be more difficult to market, but this concerto has legs, and James Ehnes’ playing is a marvel. First impressive thing: he performed this wickedly complex new concerto from memory. Second: he is a preposterously good violinist, technically, musically, and in every other way that matters. The third movement cadenza, with its left-hand pizzicato runs, inspired little gasps of astonishment from the audience. And he does all this with a calm, almost impassive countenance that utterly belies what is happening sonically.
The concerto itself is one I’d happily hear again. Although some of the orchestration is too thick, occasionally obscuring the soloist, it is a piece that doesn’t take itself too seriously even as it works within a dauntingly complex musical language. Kernis’ own notes about the piece observe that it has a wide-ranging set of musical influences: the first movement, Chaconne, is influenced by the Baroque dance form, while the second, Ballad, takes its cues simultaneously from jazz and the complex harmonies of French composer Olivier Messiaen. The third movement, the most technically daunting of the lot, is called Toccatini, inspired both by the Baroque toccata and by the idea of a fun new martini, and includes over-the-top percussion effects such as a train whistle. This eclecticism, combined with James Ehnes’ virtuosity, results in eminently listenable “new music”—just what we need. This is a concerto that is challenging for the orchestra as well as for the soloist, and the Dallas Symphony, with guest conductor Gustavo Gimeno, impressed.