Lang Lang — Gala
September 16 | 2016
Jaap van Zweden CONDUCTS
Lang Lang PIANO
Piano Concerto No. 1
Romeo and Juliet (Selections)
Superstar pianist Lang Lang joins the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Maestro van Zweden as we kick off the season. Enjoy preferred seating and the best after-party in town.
- Lang Lang Draws a Crowd, But the DSO was the Real Star of its Own Gala
By Scott Cantrell
Dallas Morning News
If you needed proof of the current excellence of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra--or of the wonders Jaap van Zweden has wrought in eight years as music director--you had only to be at the Meyerson Symphony Center Friday night. The annual gala concert, a big fund-raiser for the orchestra, filled the house, apart from the choral terrace.
Well-dressed Dallas swells paid well and filled the lobby for a black-tie pre-concert dinner, and post-concert revels were on the bill. Both decor and dress were more reserved--more formal--than some extravagances in pre-Recession years, but the wealthy and generous were much in evidence. Mere mortals could buy concert-only tickets at rack rates.
For many in the audience, the big draw was Lang Lang, at 34 not only a pianist but also a media sensation. His coif and physical and musical mannerisms are less eccentric than in earlier years, but his account of the Tchaikovsky B-flat minor Piano Concerto remained an exercise in self-conscious artiness.
He has the technique to do anything, of course, dispatching speed-of-light octaves and runs with lapidary brilliance. Mini- and maxi-crescendos were sleek as could be. He could stretch a lyric passage to a near halt, then drive the final coda at a frantic pace.
One marveled at the profusion of interpretive ideas--no auto-pilot here--and the unerring control. But ultimately I wished for a more organic, less self-indulgent, performance, one that illuminated the music more than showing off the pianist's bag of tricks.
Van Zweden and the orchestra coordinated with every interpretive twist and turn, no small accomplishment. Eloquent solos from oboist Erin Hannigan and flutist Matthew Roitstein sang through beautifully, but important contributions from clarinetist Gregory Raden and cellist Christopher Adkins were swamped in balances. For an encore Lang Lang whipped up a scorching Manual de Falla "Ritual Fire Dance."
From a purely musical standpoint, the real stars of the evening were van Zweden and the orchestra. And selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (mostly from the Second Suite), ranging from pastel delicacies to strategically savage assaults, were splendid showpieces.
Violins alternately glowed, flickered and blazed with amazing finesse. Violas delivered an important cameo with assured warmth. Horns made stirring sounds. In addition to Raden, Roitstein and Adkins, saxophonist Tim Roberts contributed expressive solos. (Former principal flutist Demarre McGill has left for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Roitstein, from the Houston Symphony, may be one of numerous potential successors who'll be tried out this season.)
Even when a hush fell over the music, van Zweden kept the fires burning. The one misjudgment in an otherwise thrilling account was an overly frantic "Juliet--The Young Girl," which wants the effortless delicacy of flickering fairies' wings.
- Style and Substance
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs
Dallas — The Dallas Symphony’s annual Gala is a combination concert and social event. And so it was on Friday evening, at a decked-out Meyerson Symphony Center. Also equally decked out were the attendees, with men in tuxedos and ladies in formal floor-length gowns and bejeweled necks and ears. There was a time when this was how people dressed for every concert or event they attended, except the men went one step further and wore tails. Nowadays, in an era of more casual attire, being in a crowd of formally dressed people is a large part of the evening’s festivities.
For the patrons, who forked out some bucks for a seat at the table, the evening stared out with a fancy dinner set up in the lobby. But anyone could buy a ticket for the concert, which started at 8:45 or so. Everyone in attendance was invited to the after-party, with an open bar with a mob scene for a line. There were nibbles, some served and others on a buffet table. The fare ranged from a corn chip with guacamole to mini-cupcakes.
The concert in the middle of these festivities was as extravagant as the rest of the evening. Usually, galas bring in a superstar soloist, a dwindling classification. Chinese rock-star pianist, Lang Lang, certainly fits that description. When he first came to everyone’s attention in 1999, it was with a splash. His transcendental mastery of technique was matched by the extravagant show he put on while playing. (Quite a quandary for critics.) Fortunately, at 34, he has calmed down considerably, allowing his remarkable technical prowess to come to the fore.
One thing that has not calmed down is his original take on the standard repertoire. Hearing his performance of the ever-popular B-flat minor piano concerto by Tchaikovsky creates a contradiction in assessing his performance. On the one hand, it is obvious that he has carefully studied, even pondered, every phrase in the concerto—starting at the note level. His astounding ability at the piano is equally obvious. On the other hand, his very personal performance of the score rises above interpretation to a level of commenting. Tempi were sometimes incredibly fast and other times incredibly slow. He frequently added accents and elevated some inner lines to prominence. But the bottom line is that Lang Lang delivered an exciting and erudite performance of singular originality that was perfectly played. He played an encore, delivering an incendiary conflagration of Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” from his ballet El amor brujo.
The Dallas Symphony was marvelous all evening. Music Director Jaap van Zweden stayed right with Lang Lang through all of his tempo indulgences, although once he had to catch up when the pianist took off running. One change in the orchestra’s personnel became obvious when it came to the big flute solo. The much-lauded principal flutist, Demarre McGill, has taken the position of principal flute in the Metropolitan Opera after his short tenure here. Guest principals are scheduled for the season, starting with Matthew Roitstein, who is the Associate Principal Flute with the Houston Symphony. It will be interesting to hear the difference the various players will make to the sound of the wind section.
The abbreviated program concluded with a blazing performance of some selections from the two assembled suites, mostly from Suite II, from Prokofiev’s wondrous ballet score for Romeo and Juliet. It was a little confusing for members of the audience unfamiliar with the music because the selections differed from the printed program. As with all ballet music, it helps to know what is going on when it is being played. The “Juliet as a young girl” section is not just some fast music, very fast indeed on Friday, if you connect the title with the music. But no one could have any confusion about what a spectacular job the DSO did with this most challenging score.
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