Dallas — The first movement of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto has one of the longest orchestral introductions of any major concerto. Tension builds as listeners wait for the cellist to make his first entrance. This can be a good thing or a bad one, depending on the cellist’s first note.
On Thursday evening at the Meyerson Symphony Center for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Müller-Schott’s first notes were an overwhelming disappointment—his vibrato throughout the first movement was so fast and narrow that it sounded as if a hive of annoyed honeybees had taken up residence inside the body of his cello. This is a cellist with technique to burn, and he and conductor Jun Märkl got the tempi right, never falling into the trap of excessive rubato that ensnares many performers of this concerto. Still, the vibrato was so exaggerated as to be distracting, although this issue improved in the final two movements. It’s a shame, because so many other things went so right.
In the third movement, co-concertmaster Nathan Olson has a pair of solos—it’s as if Dvořák’s idea for the melodic line is higher than a cello can comfortably play, so he tosses the melody to the violinist for a time. Müller-Schott offered up a nice bit of theater here, gazing at Olson as if to say, “it’s your turn!” then reclaiming the melodic line on his next entrance. The orchestra occasionally overbalanced the soloist, but for the most part played admirably.
The Dvořák was the last piece on a program that began with Wagner’s Overture to Der fliegende Holländer and continued with the 1947 version of Stravinsky’s Petrushka. Although guest conductors never quite seem to get the same precision out of the orchestra that Jaap Van Zweden does, both pieces were energetic and lively. Märkl’s clear downbeat ably highlighted the drunken-sounding counterpoint of the Stravinsky’s third movement, and Principal Flute Demarre McGill glittered. David Matthews’s English Horn solo in the Wagner was a miracle of buttery gorgeousness, as well.
I hope that Müller-Schott returns to our area soon; I’d like to give him another hearing on a different piece.