The Dallas Symphony Orchestra hauled out the big names on Saturday night to open its 2015-2016 season: violinist Pinchas Zukerman, Ludwig van Beethoven and conductor Jaap van Zweden.
The one-night event, which benefited the DSO, was a gala affair. This means dinner and socializing beforehand, a convivial atmosphere in the Meyerson Symphony Center and — for the most part — a well-dressed audience.
One suspects that this sort of thing tends to attract a certain number of people who would just as soon be somewhere else, but it must be said that when the music started this became an exceptionally attentive audience. The CQ (cough quotient) was quite low.
To open the program, Van Zweden conducted the Star-Spangled Banner. The national anthem is a regular feature on Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra programs, but at DSO concerts its inclusion is rare. Van Zweden, who is a master at working up energy, took this one at a majestic pace.
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There were two classics on the program: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and his Symphony No. 7.
The latter was given a typically energetic performance by Van Zweden and the orchestra, with a full-bodied string sound, some beautiful playing in the woodwinds and a hyper, pulse-racing finale that brought the audience to its feet as the sound was dying away.
Except in the moving allegretto, the pace was swift. Beethoven would probably have approved. It’s known from his metronome markings that he was fond of fast tempos.
The violin concerto, with Zukerman as the soloist, was strikingly different in approach. It was mellow throughout, as befits the work’s character. (One episode in the third movement contains what is arguably Beethoven’s most beautiful melody.)
Zukerman produced some lovely sounds, always lyrical and agreeably playful in the finale. Van Zweden and the orchestra were like-minded partners.
(The linking of Beethoven and Van Zweden brings to mind a bit of music-related trivia: Beethoven’s ancestors were Flemish, which explains the Dutch “van” in his name rather than the German “von.” On the other hand, the Dallas Symphony’s conductor, who is Dutch, may have Swedish ancestors; Jaap van Zweden translates into English as “Jacob of Sweden.”)
The DSO’s regular classical season opens Oct. 1 with Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, with Hélène Grimaud as soloist, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, with Van Zweden conducting.