Pianist Simone Dinnerstein

Review: The Emperor and Ravel | Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra | Bass Performance Hall

Stormy Weather

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein shows how to play with an orchestra, but the Fort Worth Symphony struggles with support.

published Sunday, October 5, 2014

Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein

Fort Worth — The trend of conductors providing music history lessons before concerts seems to be escalating—Fort Worth Symphony guest conductor Carlos Kalmar spent nearly 10 minutes before Friday’s FWSO concert explaining each piece. Judging from the reactions of the people seated near me, this exegesis was not entirely unwelcome—Kalmar’s remarks were, indeed, on point. On the other hand, this concert clocked in at 10 minutes over the two-hour mark, making for a long evening for contemporary concertgoers. (Beethoven himself sometimes programmed concerts that must have been four hours or more long, but that was before musician’s unions and the distractions of modern life.)

Most of Friday’s concert was an enjoyable listen, though, whatever the length of the program.

American pianist Simone Dinnerstein was the star of the show, to be sure. To perform a concerto such as Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, the “Emperor,” surely one of the most-performed piano concerti of all, the musician has to work to make her playing distinctive without being vulgar. Dinnerstein found a solid balance. Although her second movement tempo was a bit slow, otherwise her playing was sensitive, nuanced, and gave the impression throughout that she was playing with the orchestra, not just in front of it. The Fort Worth Symphony, however, did not support her as effectively as they might have done. Balance was often problematic, with moments where the brass were overwhelmingly loud or the winds were nearly inaudibly soft, or the entire orchestra was simply too heavy. Chalk this up to a guest conductor not yet accustomed to the acoustics of Bass Hall. On the other hand, there’s a charming bit in the third movement Rondo in which the piano begins a melodic phrase and the violins pick it up, then it’s repeated by the entire orchestra, then, playfully, by the bassoon before the piano enters again— and that moment was absolutely wonderful.

The evening began with Benjamin Britten’s delicious but challenging “Four Sea Interludes” from his opera Peter Grimes. These interludes, titled “Dawn,” “Sunday Morning,” “Moonlight,” and “Storm,” make considerable technical demands of the orchestra. The Fort Worth Symphony generally availed itself well. Intonation in the very high violin parts, for instance, was solid. Ensemble was not as tight as usual with this orchestra—perhaps they did not quite trust Kalmar’s baton. Entrances in the low brass were sometimes a bit ragged, and strings, winds, and mallet percussion weren’t always exactly together. Effective dynamic contrasts provided appropriate drama in the “Storm” movement, which ended with a quite literal bang.

The second half of the program was a collection of all of Ravel’s waltzes for orchestra: the Valses nobles et sentimentales and La Valse, performed without a break in between. The orchestra evinced some fine, crisp playing in the first of the Valses nobles, and while the end of La Valse was perhaps exaggeratedly loud, it served as a dramatic close to an interesting program.

There were lots of empty seats Friday night—perhaps on this occasion piano fans were mostly in Dallas listening to Emanuel Ax play with Dallas Symphony Orchestra, but low attendance at FWSO concerts is a source of concern. Thanks For Reading

Dates, Prices, & Other Details

View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Stormy Weather
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein shows how to play with an orchestra, but the Fort Worth Symphony struggles with support.
by J. Robin Coffelt

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :