Vivaldi Four Seasons & Beethoven 6
April 27-30 | 2017
Matthew Halls conducts
Nathan Olson violin
The Four Seasons
Symphony No. 6, "Pastoral"
In a joyous celebration of spring, Co-Concertmaster Nathan Olson performs Vivaldi's extraordinarily imaginative Four Seasons. Plus Beethoven's charming Pastoral Symphony.
- Vivid, Brilliant Performances of Vivaldi and Beethoven from Olson, Halls and the DSO
by Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News
I'll admit it. As a veteran of too many performances of Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, I wasn't excited about a concert comprising only those two pieces. That, of course, is a minority experience and opinion, and it was good to see the Meyerson Symphony Center filled for precisely that pairing Thursday night. Before the concert began, I was told the program already had set a DSO revenue record.
That a wonderful experience lay ahead was evident from practically the first notes. In fact, DSO co-concertmaster Nathan Olson dispatched the Vivaldi with dazzling brilliance and elegant nuance. The 30-something British conductor Matthew Halls led fresh, caringly detailed performances of both works.
It made sense, of course, to pair these two pieces of program music, one baroque, one classical, each illustrating changing weather and associated feelings. Each at various times evokes a murmuring brook, bird calls, a thunderstorm and peasant dances.
During his nine season as music director, Jaap van Zweden has cultivated a good command of baroque style in the DSO — unforced buoyancy, shorter bow strokes for the strings, subtler vibrato just on long notes. With just two dozen strings for the Vivaldi, Halls molded a performance at once suavely stylish and vividly illustrative. A background including period-instruments performances, as well as playing organ and harpsichord and choral and opera conducting, seemed wholly relevant.
With a beautifully cultivated tone, except when it made sense to dig in a bit more, Olson dispatched the solo writing with unassuming virtuosity, but more reflective passages were subtly atmospheric. Start to finish, this was a fabulous performance.
- Halls Leads DSO in Fresh and Vibrant “Nature” Program of Vivaldi and Beethoven
by Wayne Lee Gay, Texas Classical Review
While this week’s concerts of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Matthew Halls won’t win any awards for adventurous programming, Thursday night’s concert brought outstanding performances of a pair of familiar items from the classical hit parade.
The orchestra’s co-concertmaster Nathan Olson stepped into the spotlight as soloist for the opening item, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Vivaldi’s successful marriage of sturdy formal structure with vivid pictorialism has been, for more than half century or so, a bonanza for the classical recording industry, a staple of music appreciation classes, and an attractive, not-overly-demanding showpiece for violinists.
Halls led a reduced orchestra of twenty-five strings from the harpsichord, created a reading suitable for the modern concert hall but one thoroughly and appropriately informed by historical performance practice. Assertively articulated downbows and accents joined a subtly flexible, dance-like rhythmic approach to create a relentless energy.
Soloist Olson responded with a solid, low-vibrato tone that he successfully carried into both the lyrical sections as well as the rapid-fire passage-work. For his part, Halls surely highlighted Vivaldi’s audacious sound effects: the gnats and lightning flashes in “Summer,” for instance, or the violent pizzicatos in the final movement of “Autumn,” or the cold raindrops in “Winter.”
If Vivaldi occasionally lapses into easy sequences, he also frequently creates moments of irresistible interest, here beautifully realized by Olson, Halls, and the orchestra. The descending sequence in the opening movement of “Autumn” provided one such moment of tension and drama; and Halls and Olson collaborated to bring an almost lush romanticism to the cascading colors of the final movement, building a convincing sense of finality and valediction to the cycle.