This is the time for New Year’s resolutions, and I have one for you classical music aficionados: in 2019, resolve to go to a performance by an ensemble or from a concert series you’ve never heard, or that you haven’t heard in a while. We are so lucky in the DFW Metroplex to have many exceptional resident and visiting classical musicians. One of the revelations I experienced when I began to review concerts for TheaterJones almost six years ago was the sheer variety available to us. So I encourage you to experience some of that variety in the coming year.
Here, I’ll share with you some of my favorite moments from 2018, and what makes the groups that created them so special.
1. A chance to hear something new: January’s Voices of Change concert with guest composer Harold Meltzer. See review here. Voices of Change, a Dallas contemporary chamber music ensemble now in its 44th season, creates some of the most innovative, interesting programs in the area. Pre-concert lectures help demystify the experience of listening to “new” music (which is at times as much as 100 years old). Musicians are top-notch; Music Director Maria Schleuning, a Dallas Symphony Orchestra violinist, recruits DSO musicians and other top-notch local talent. This season, performances have moved to Monday evenings in Caruth Auditorium on the SMU campus.
2. A multimedia experience: January’s Dallas Chamber Symphony performance, featuring its Sight & Sound film competition and a premiere of local composer Douglas Buchanan’s Crossroads, featuring the Dallas Street Choir. The review of this Moody Performance Hall concert is here. I’ve often been critical of DCS’s more conventional programs; even though they use excellent local musicians, most of them young, the orchestra under Music Director Richard McKay often has fallen frustratingly short of its apparent potential. However, the orchestra’s pairings of film with music, whether it is a short film competition, as here, or a silent film, are excellent. With these, the ensemble has found a worthwhile niche.
3. An orchestra west of the Trinity: February’s Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra concert, highlighting violin soloist Will Hagen. Here's the original review. The Fort Worth Symphony has matured into a fine orchestra that is consistently worth a listen. They often feature less-familiar soloists, many of whom are delightful discoveries. If you’re a Dallasite who frequently attends Dallas Symphony performances, give the FWSO a try in 2019. If you actually live in Fort Worth or nearby, this is your orchestra. Support them. There’s free parking as well as lots of pre-concert dining within easy walking distance, although Bass Hall still insists on annoying bag checks.
4. A more casual approach: March’s Dallas Symphony ReMix performances at Moody Performance Hall, under the baton of (now former) DSO Assistant Conductor Ruth Reinhardt. Read the review here. DSO’s ReMix concerts are consistently fun. They’re also inexpensive, and with BOGO social media deals, can be less expensive but almost certainly more memorable than a movie night, especially when you factor in the coupon for a free drink included with your purchase, and the snacks and other extras often set up in Moody’s lobby. These concerts are perfect for taking your friends who aren’t so sure about classical music. They humanize musical performance, with their casual vibe and meet-the-musicians events afterward.
5. An intimate, elegant setting: May’s Blue Candlelight Music Series house concert. The review is here. If you’re accustomed to hearing chamber music in a mid- to large-sized hall, then house concerts can be a revelation. This, after all, is how most composers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries imagined their work for small ensembles would be heard—in private homes. Blue Candlelight is one of a handful of groups who host concerts in intimate venues. Their concerts take place at the gracious Preston Hollow home of Richard and Enika Schulze, and have space for about 50 guests. Hors d’oeuvres, wine, and desserts are included in the ticket price, and mingling before the concert and during intermission is a great way to meet fellow music lovers. The music is almost always fine; while May’s concert featured a soprano and a pianist, various combinations of musicians, many of them friends of Music Director Baya Kakouberi, perform at these concerts.
6. A summer festival: June’s PianoTexas Festival, at Texas Christian University, features piano recitals by some of the world’s top pianists. Notable this year was Vladimir Ovchinnikov’s impressive recital, reviewed here. We tend to think of summer as the off-season for classical music, and while it’s true that orchestras and opera companies tend to take a break for parts of July and August, summer festivals can fill that gap. PianoTexas is one of the best of these. Just bring a jacket; PepsiCo Recital Hall is often uncomfortably over-air conditioned.
7. A road trip: Summer’s 2018 Santa Fe Opera season, with three of the season’s five operas, including John Adams’ Doctor Atomic, reviewed here. If you’re able to escape from Texas’ summer heat, consider a trip to Santa Fe to see the opera. If your timing is right and you’re able to spring for the pricey tickets, you can see five operas in five nights. Productions in the covered outdoor amphitheater are of the absolute highest caliber, overshadowed only by the New Mexican sunsets visible from the outdoor “lobby” before each performance. The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Santa Fe Desert Chorale Summer Festival run concurrently with the opera performances, if you want to mix it up a bit.
8. A drive to Richardson (unless you already live there): September’s Chamber Music International recital, Joyce Yang, piano, reviewed here. Music Director Philip Lewis invites musicians to perform chamber music and, occasionally as here, solo recitals. It’s often the same slate of performers from one year to the next, but when that slate includes musicians such as the outstanding Joyce Yang, who cares? Many of the performances happen in Richarson’s St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church, though some are at Dallas’ Moody Performance Hall.
9. A tie-in with modern art: September’s Sounds Modern concert, in the recital hall at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, was designed to complement the Takashi Murakami exhibit then on display at the museum. Sounds Modern features works that are often ambitiously experimental. While their performances may stretch the ears and the minds of even seasoned concertgoers, the quality of performance is exemplary—Music Director Elizabeth McNutt and some other performers are University of North Texas faculty.
10. A new venture: November’s American Baroque Opera Company’s house concert, with a review available here. This enterprise is the brainchild of ambitious, energetic local baroque specialists Eric Smith and Miguel Cantu IV. They have begun this company on a small budget, but with substantial local support, and offer authentic performance practice versions of often little-known baroque opera and vocal music. House concerts are not all they do: they will be mounting a full production of Vivaldi’s opera Montezuma in March. This is an opportunity to support a fledgling venture and watch it grow, while hearing some first-rate period music at the same time.
2018 YEAR IN REVIEW
Friday, December 28
- The Year in Comedy by Chief Comedy Critic Kevin Beane
- Danielle Georgiou's Sixth Position: A Year of Movement
Saturday, December 29
- The Year in Dance by Chief Dance Critic Cheryl Callon
- The Year in New Dance Works by Katie Dravenstott
- The Year in Dance by Emily Sese
Sunday, December 30
- The Year in Music and Opera by Chief Music and Opera Critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs
- The Year in Music and Opera by J. Robin Coffelt
- The Year in Music and Opera by Wayne Lee Gay
Monday, December 31
- The Year in Performing Arts Books by Cathy Ritchie
- The Year in Classical Music Recordings by Andrew Anderson
- The Year in Theatrical Recordings by Jay Gardner
- The Year in Film by Bart Weiss
- The Year in Performing Arts News by Mark Lowry
Tuesday, January 1
- The Year in Theater by Frank Garrett
- The Year in Theater by Jan Farrington
- The Year in Theater by Janice L. Franklin
- The Year in Theater by Martha Heimberg
- The Year in Theater by Jill Sweeney
- The Year in Theater by Teresa Marrero
Wednesday, January 2
- The Year in Theater by Mark Lowry
Thursday, January 3
- A challenge for our readers
Friday, January 4
- Looking ahead to 2019